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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Christian, of Micanopy, co-owns the Tampa Bay franchise of Royal Restrooms, a nationwide company that rents out upscale portable bathroom trailers. Popular at beach weddings and other swanky outdoor events, the trailers boast flushing toilets, sinks with hot and cold water, air conditioning, silk flowers, framed art, vanity mirrors, rugs and other pleasantries. For weddings, Christian adds a bowl of mints.
Because of these bells and whistles, Royal Restrooms are more expensive than traditional portable bathrooms. To rent a three-stall unit for a Saturday and Sunday would cost $900 to $1,000, Christian estimated. Prices vary by delivery location.
"The biggest problem I see is that people just don't budget for these," said Christian, 57. "They'll have a big party and they're thinking, 'Well, we'll just get a bathroom Porta-John.' "
But Christian's customers don't seem to mind the added expense.
"Most of our most positive feedback is from women," he said. '"I had one lady who came up and said, 'This is almost as good as sex.' "
Other businesses provide a similar service. For instance, New Orleans-based Elite Portable Restrooms, which rents throughout the South, offers baby-changing stations, skylights, wall sconces and oak vanities with marble sinks. Even Porta-Johns come with flushing toilets, hot water and air conditioning.
Royal Restrooms began in Savannah, Ga., in 2003 and now has 47 franchise offices across the country. Christian was the first franchise owner, opening the Jacksonville/Gainseville office in December 2005. He and business partner Ron Grace started the Tampa Bay franchise, based in Wesley Chapel, in May 2006.
The men's unusual business has taken them to charitable events, military bases, golf courses and department stores undergoing renovations.
When Christian was a boy, he dreamed of being a baseball player. That fantasy didn't quite pan out, but he has provided Royal Restroom trailers for a community baseball league in the Gainesville area.
The men have helped with disaster relief, sending trailers to a rec center in central Florida after tornadoes earlier this year and units to a New Orleans manufacturing company following Hurricane Katrina.
Several months ago, Christian installed two Royal Restrooms trailers pool-side at the Don CeSar Beach Resort on St. Pete Beach; the regular bathrooms are inaccessible during hotel renovations.
We ran into Sheldon Wertman, a tourist from New York City, on his way out of one of the Don's CeSar's Royal Restrooms.
"The ones at the stadium or what you see at a construction site - those are a cesspool," Wertman said.