Turning A Solid Profit

One man's poop is another man's newest venture

If you’ve gone to Cerritos to catch some waves lately, you might have noticed something a bit different: Better smell! The beach has been upgraded with a public port-a-potty.

The port-a-potty is the start-up of Peter Obstfeld, a seasonal visitor from British Columbia who has been hanging out at Cerritos Beach for 15 years. He was having a conversation with Marcelo, owner of the Desert Moon Hotel, about the changes at the beach and how to improve it. He learned that, for more than three years, Marcelo has allowed the public at Cerritos Beach to place their trash (and God knows what else) in the hotel's private garbage trailer, which is next to the palm trees in the public vehicle access area. He has one of his employees take the trailer to the dump twice a week to keep the fly population at bay.

Peter was inspired by Marcelo's commitment to help the beach stay clean. And given the lack of services available to let you do your "business,” Peter decided to make your business his business.

After coughing up a couple hundred bucks, a blue and white portable bathroom from the Septic Truck company appeared at Cerritos, all shiny and new and clean. It didn’t stay that way for long. After a few days, with just some handmade signs and plain old word-of-mouth, a steady stream of patrons are coming to make use of the new amenity. It looks like Peter has struck gold with this idea. He's always full of it anyway, so it doesn't surprise me.

For the port-a-potty's users, there is toilet paper and a spray bottle with cleaning solution inside, and a hand washing station outside with hand soap, rinse water and paper towels. The toilet gets pumped out twice a week for a monthly fee of about 80 bucks.

Since he deployed it in early January, Peter's poop business has grown, heap by heap. There’s a suggested donation of only 10 pesos or about 50 cents, which you can leave in the jug outside the port-a-potty. Well worth the money if you’re in dire straits! If you do give a donation, here's a word of advice: please pay before you use the bathroom, so Peter doesn't have to launder the money afterwards.

It’s hard to give an exact number of bathroom users the port-a-potty sees, since Peter’s not monitoring it 24/7, but his venture has been enough of a financial success that he’s already expanding. This time, however, he’s getting area businesses involved.

Peter first started talking with Mario Becerril Zayas, owner of Mario's Surf School and Todos Santos Private Transportation, about making the port-a-potty a permanent fixture on Cerritos Beach. Mario agreed to contribute substantially to the monthly costs of the toilet.

Other businesses and hotels have also agreed to help with the costs. Participation in the potty sponsorship has been set at a minimum of 10 bucks a month, but a few sponsors have donated more (Free Souls Hotel pledged to give 50 bucks a month). Excess funds and public donations given at the wash station are used to purchase supplies.

Thanks to Peter’s successful sponsorship drive, a second port-a-potty has now been placed on the south end of Cerritos. That’s good news for the beach and for us; better that the poop goes in the potty and stays out of the bushes!