Deaf run, operated moving company overcomes all obstacles including pandemic
ELKHART, Ind. - In our newest part of the Made in Michiana series – we take a look at a moving company beating the odds.
Overcoming a pandemic while dealing with other challenges, working without a tool that many of us take for granted.
Imagine not being able to fully communicate with your clients. That’s exactly what Silent Movers has to deal with, but Walter and his team are breaking barriers and overcoming any challenge.
Picking up your life to move is a big step, made harder with three floors to climb and temps feeling like the triple digits. But it’s made simple with helping hands like Walters.
"He always try to help everybody," Tabatha Royal, Walter's sister, and secretary for the business said.
When Walter Griffin Jr. and his team show up to a job, they sport yellow t-shirts reading Silent Mover‘s
It’s something that’s more than just a brand, but an identity for Walter and most of his team.
“Walter took sick when he was two years old. And he had a high fever of 105. And my mom took him to the hospital, which kind of find out he had meningitis. The fever took his hearing and his speech," Royal said.
“I have two deaf friends that own a business. So I was learning from them, you know, just kind of figure out what they do. And I thought it would be cool for me to own a business. So I set this up. And I decided, you know, since I'm deaf, I wanted to call it silent movers and the rest is kind of history," Walter Griffin Jr., the owner of the business, Silent Movers said.
7 years ago he got contracted through U-Haul and it went from there.
“He loads and unloads u haul trucks. Customers put an order online said that they want two men for two hours. They come. They put the order online, I get the information, I do the calling, talk to the customers and have the guys set up to go out," Royal said.
The company goes all over northern Indiana – over 100 miles of coverage.
Walter not allowing being deaf to get in his way and is now helping others going through the same thing.
“Honestly, it's mostly deaf people. You know, it's a lot of family members. But I wanted the business just because I like to help other people. I'm going to a missions group with deaf men, and so I wanted to help them and help other people and I just I really love helping people," he said.
Having a big heart and helping people didn’t mean starting the business came without challenges.
“I started this by myself. And you know, the first few times I called customers, they would hang up on me because they didn't understand that they were, you know that I was making the phone call through an interpreter. And so then I would have my mom help interpret for me and so she would make the phone call and that's kind of how we started that and it just got easier as time went on," Griffin Jr. said.
"He wants to let people know that he is deaf, and he is here to help everybody. But how do you get in contact with these people when they don't understand you? So he tends to get out here and get online," Royal said.
It was especially difficult, he said, to communicate with older people.
“A lot of senior citizens, don't really know how to work with deaf people. They're just like, what are you doing? You ordered a service, but you're deaf? That's correct. Well, what are you doing? And you know, we just have to kind of repeat ourselves," Griffin Jr. said.
But Walter and his team have figured out the way through the confusion.
“We'll teach the customers you know, if number one for the kitchen number two for the bedroom, number three for the basement, things like that, so things move more smoothly. Sometimes we might have a hearing person with us or sometimes we just do a lot of gesturing. So we just, we just make it work and it runs smooth," he said.
Walter worked for seven years to smooth out the kinks but then came another wrench... the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had to put a hold on the business for about two months," he said. "We started back slowly and we just needed to take our time and make sure that we were doing what we needed to be doing. You know, we have a limit of about previously, we had eight jobs a day now we do about two or three jobs a day.”
Losing thousands along the way and getting back up and running is no small feat. Right now, they are just trying to make sure customers feel safe using their service.
“We just let them know we're going to use a mask. We make sure that they're comfortable we'll ask them if they say they're not comfortable you know, we try to figure that out as a communication. What do you want us to do," he said.
And to make matters even harder Walter lost someone very close to him and the business.
“My mom passed away recently and she was our secretary. You know, she's been the secretary for a long time and it's easy to communicate with her. And so now my sister has taken on that role," he said.
Yet another heartstring... pulled.
“It was a little bit hard at first, but now I'm just, you know, we've been giving everybody time just to kind of get over my mother's passing so that we can, you know, keep moving forward with the business," he said.
But Walter and the Silent Movers still somehow seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We just want our business to be successful. We want people to recognize us," he said. "We want people to understand it's a good value, you know, we provide a good service and add good value, we're honest. And we just want to help people, you know, we want to help them get to where they're going.”
And even with the hurdles, Walter said they just want to keep moving forward.
“It’s gonna be a couple of years before we can get back to normal, but I think we'll be able to," he said.
Because picking up your life to move can be hard, but Walter and his team will still be here... even if you can’t hear them.
Walter tells ABC57 he hopes to expand his business going forward and continue to help customers when they need it most.