Royal removers

There’s a new king in town, sitting on a throne of old office equipment and musty boxes from your grandma’s basement.

It’s the Junk King, and the new Madison franchise — owned by the husband and wife team of Eric and Kira Cortese — is proof of the old adage that one person’s trash is another’s treasure.

This may be the first Junk King franchise in Wisconsin, but Junk King is the second largest junk removal company in North America with 150 units and 70 franchisees. The company has also distinguished itself for its commitment to recycling, repurposing, and reusing materials. In fact, nationally Junk King recycles more than 60% of everything picked up, the Corteses say.

It's one reason the Corteses felt Madison was a perfect spot to locate a franchise.

“We can help homeowners, renters, business owners, real estate agents, landlords, remodeling companies — the list goes on and on,” says Kira Cortese. “We love that a big part of this franchise includes recycling and reusing. That’s important to us and to Madison. We do our best to separate or break down anything that can be recycled or repurposed before it goes to the landfill. Why send more things to the landfill if you don’t have to?”

Just about everything

Junk King’s specialty is in not specializing in one type of waste removal.

“We take just about everything,” says Eric Cortese. “We do furniture removal, television disposal and recycling, yard waste removal, foreclosure clean outs, appliance removal, hot tub disposal, e-waste disposal, trash removal, mattress disposal, refrigerator disposal and recycling, construction waste removal, garbage removal, etc.”

The only things Junk King, which currently covers all of Dane County and the surrounding area, can’t dispose of are hazardous materials such as asbestos or paint.

“We are able to work with large commercial construction companies, as well as the average homeowner doing a small remodeling project,” notes Eric. “We’ll take old cabinets, sinks, refrigerators, rubble, rock, dirt, wood, and other construction materials. This list is endless! We can book any sort of job that requires junk removal. If an office building suffers a fire and they need a junk removal company to help get the damaged desks, chairs, etc. out, we would be happy to help. Or, if a resident’s home floods and they have damaged couches, TV stands, bookcases, etc., we will haul it all away.”

Cleanup made easy

Homeowners and businesses looking to clear out junk can call 1-888-888-JUNK and talk to a live person, ask questions, and schedule a removal. Junk King even accepts texted photos of a junk-filled space, and home or business owners can also go to to book online.

To schedule, all someone has to do is pick a day and a two-hour time slot. Junk King is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday.

Junk King’s uniformed crew, which currently consists of Eric Cortese and a two-person team, will call 15 minutes before arrival, and then they’ll take a look at what the client wants removed and provide a free estimate. “If you agree to the price, 90% of the time we can take your unwanted items right on the spot,” says Cortese.

Eric Cortese, co-owner of Madison's new Junk King franchise.

Another benefit of Junk King’s service, explains Cortese, is that they pick up the items anywhere in a client’s home or office. “You don’t have to pack it, wrap it, or haul it to the curb yourself. Our crew will go to the attic, basement, backyard, or wherever the junk is.”

The Junk King crew takes everything tabbed for removal from a client’s home or office and loads it into a truck that holds 18 cubic yards of material, or the equivalent of six full-sized pick-up trucks.

From there, items are transported back to Junk King’s 1,200-square-foot warehouse in Stoughton to separate the recyclable material and items that can be donated. The rest goes to the landfill.

“If furniture or other items are in good shape, we donate it to local charities such as Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill,” notes Kira Cortese. “We’re active with Big Brothers Big Sisters since Eric has been a big brother for more than two years, so we also look for opportunities to repurpose items to them. We’re also involved with the Dane County Foster Care Program as newly licensed foster parents. We know firsthand how hard it is and expensive it can be to get your extra rooms outfitted into a child’s bedroom quickly. We try to save items that could benefit other foster parents such as furniture and toys, and things like bicycles that could help the kids.”




Junk King may be new to Wisconsin and the Madison area, but Kira and Eric Cortese are not.

Kira grew up on Madison’s near east side, where she attended Marquette Elementary and East High School. After that she studied art at UW–Madison, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree before moving to Chicago.

She worked at a design and advertising firm in downtown Chicago where she first met Eric more than 25 years ago.

Eric was born and raised in the Windy City. He started his career in IT, which was what he was doing when he met Kira, and then moved on to real estate.

“In the 2000s, I went back to school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida and earned my Bachelor of Science degree,” says Eric. “While I was finishing my degree and for several years afterward, I was the property manager for a set of apartment communities. I got a lot of experience helping coordinate move outs when units changed hands. A lot of the skills I learned as a property manager for over two decades helps me every single day in this business.”

Ultimately, Kira and Eric missed their friends and family in the Midwest, so four years ago they decided to move back to Madison. “We love it here and are continually appreciative of how nice everyone is!” beams Eric.

Upon their return they started looking for a business opportunity to share together.

“Franchising appealed to us because we’d be able to own our own business while having a model to follow and a team to be a part of,” says Eric. “We’re not extravagant people, so we liked that Junk King is not a business about image. Instead it’s about getting things done.

“Another thing that attracted us to Junk King is the opportunity to get involved with the community we serve and live in,” Eric continues. “We have really enjoyed getting to meet people from all over the county when we show up to their house or business to haul their unwanted items away. It’s nice being able to help them solve a problem.”

“Also, as a designer, I liked the big red Junk King truck,” adds Kira.

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