AUBURN — Nothing gets under Shawn Leone Sr.’s skin like a junked mattress.

Tossed blatantly in the street, abandoned artfully in the woods.

“I get irritated,” said Leone, 40. “I grew up in this area. If people don’t care about the community and just throw stuff outside — a mattress — just thinking the city is going to pick it up . . . you’ve got to have pride in your community.”

A few years ago, along with being tired of trash, came an entrepreneurial epiphany: He’d always wanted to own his own business. And he noticed a private junk pickup service out of southern Maine on the roads in Lewiston-Auburn, almost daily.

“So I took it upon myself and said, ‘If they’re up here from South Portland every day of the week, there must be a need for someone locally,'” Leone said.

He quit his job as a welding inspector in October to dive into his new venture full time. Now, Leone hauls junk, mattresses included. He manages renovations. And he oversees 118 empty properties, plowing, sanding driveways, checking pipes and making sure the homes stay in sellable shape.

“Sitting in an office, that’s not me,” he said.

Leone grew up in Auburn and still lives here. He worked in paving for 12 years before becoming a welding inspector. The job paid well but could keep him on the road too long, away from his wife, six children and two stepchildren.

His first step toward starting what would become Leone’s Junk Removal was buying a dump trailer and taking on a few jobs in his free time. Next, he traded his four-wheeler for an even bigger dump trailer.

Last summer, a friend recommended him to a company that does property preservation work.

“You go in, take pictures, put bids on any repairs, safety hazards,” Leone said. “Pump out basements, winterize them. If a realtor shows up to a property and they can’t show a property because it needs to be plowed, they’ll call me. I got 11 work orders yesterday for inspections that are due by Friday night. Then next week, I’ll get another 20 or 30.”

He covers Androscoggin, Oxford and Cumberland counties.

The work also gives him a ground-level view of the housing market: “A lot of them that I’m taking care of are pending right now; people are buying them up.”

While junk removal and clean-outs can be on the dirtier side, they’ve also led to intriguing finds. Antique tools. A giant nickel worth $5 when he looked on eBay.

“Another job, I got a box of irrigation parts because they never used them and he just wanted the stuff cleaned out,” Leone said. “It’s kind of like, ‘American Pickers.’ I’m in there to clean junk, but at the same time, I’m eyeing stuff that can be resold or reused, recycled.”

He’d like to grow big enough to lease office and storage space and hire a crew, and can see that coming. There’s freedom now over his schedule, even if it is frequently dashing from one job to the next.

“I’m working seven days a week now with my business pretty much, but it’s going to pay off,” Leone said. “The hard work is being put in now.”

Some days, one mattress at a time.

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Shawn Leone Sr. takes a break at a job site in Lisbon recently where he was removing debris and trash from a house under construction.

Shawn Leone Sr. tosses a bag of trash into the back of his trailer in Lisbon recently where he was removing debris and trash from a house under construction.

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