You don’t find a lot of women working in pest control, so it is not unusual for a customer to walk into Bug and Weed Mart and ask Tonya Gardner, one of our newest employees, to speak to someone in charge. “They assume because I’m female and I’m working the cash register, that I’m not the person to speak to about their pest problem,” explains Tonya. You can find Tonya working at our Tempe, Mesa, and Scottsdale stores, depending on the day.
Tonya is a former grade school teacher who was taking a break from teaching when Bug and Weed Mart owner, Jim LaBrie asked her if she would be interested in working the cash register at their Gilbert location. Tonya knew she’d get along with the manager, Mike Beach, because he is her husband, so she accepted Jim’s job offer. That was nearly a year ago and Tonya has no plans to return to teaching. “I really like helping people. Educating others is what I’ve always done.”
We recently sat down with Tonya and asked her 5 questions to give our customers a chance to know one of Bug and Weed Mart’s dedicated team members a bit better.
1. How did you go from teaching grade schoolers to helping people with their pest control?
I began as a cashier, but I couldn’t just stand there when customers were lined up, waiting for help. I started answering their questions, sharing information I had heard my husband say 500 times, (Tonya’s husband is a licensed applicator, as well as a store manager). I like to help others, to guide them and teach them. There is so much information to take in, and customers have a lot of questions. I rely on my teaching background when answering questions. As a DIY specialty store, education is an important part of what we do. I love the interaction with people and taking them from a really rough situation (such as bed bugs), helping them to feel better and realize it’s not their fault, and then showing the customer how they can get rid of the problem.
2. How did you learn about pest control?
I am self-taught. After I started working at the Gilbert store, I took classes online and read everything I could about pest and weed prevention. I really studied the labels of all the products we sell, too. Since I started, I have taken six or seven online classes and earned certificates from each one. Also, my husband is a pro-applicator, so if I have any questions, I ask him.
3. Do you enjoy working in the same industry as your husband?
Yes! We carpool together every day. We talk a lot about chemicals. I’ll tell him something about an issue a customer brought up that day and he’ll tell me what he thinks I should suggest or tell me about another chemical that would really help. We never fight. Our skills really complement each other.
4. You rotate your schedule among three Bug and Weed Mart locations: Scottsdale, Mesa, and Tempe. What is bugging people the most at those locations?
In Tempe, I hear a little bit of everything. In Mesa, it’s roaches and more recently, bed bugs. When I’m In Scottsdale, I see a lot of customers coming in about rats. Every area has pockets of scorpions, especially those who live near mountains or have property that backs up to a preserve.
5. We have to ask: What bugs you the most?
Spiders. Oh, and roaches. These two pests are definitely my least favorite.
Whatever bugs you most, Bug and Weed Mart has the equipment and expertise to prepare you for do-it-yourself pest control. Stop by any of our six Valley-wide locations. Tonya Gardner is one of many associates standing by, ready to help. We’ll teach you to do it yourself, do it right, and do it for less.