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By Nicole Clark
Vince Marzulli asks with sincerity whether he looks
like your “ typical butt cracker plumber.” Dressed nattily
in a shirt and tie, no, indeed, the does not. His business,
he says, is about more than fixing busted drains pipes and
clogged sinks, and he is trying to break the old stereotype.
Marzulli owner of Marzulli & Sons, 8133 Frankford Ave.,
is known around the Northeast for the red toilet atop a
company service truck that rides down the Frankford Ave
in the annual Mayfair - Holmesburg Thanksgiving Parade. He’s also known for causing riots by tossing toilet paper to spectators. But this toilet paper isn’t adorned in images of fluffy clouds and quilted stitching. It’s wrapped in photos of missing children. Because May 25th was National Missing Children Day, Marzulli wants to remind Northeast residents to pay attention to those blue and white flyers in your mailbox and keep an eye out for his service trucks. The faces of abducted kids stare out from those, too. These aren’t kids who were taken by their mother or father in a divorce situation. All these kids were abducted. Like this kid was outside cutting grass or something and somebody swiped him,” he says, pointing to a boy on one of his toilet paper rolls laying around the office. “ If it was one of my kids ….. I can’t even imagine. The father of four sons and a daughter and a grandfather to young boys . Marzull, a resident was drawn to the cause. He’s also a born-again Christian. ‘That the real reason that I got involved,” said Marzulli, who also sponsors Mother Against Drunk Driving and the Special Olympics. “ I’m a Christian businessman.” Marzuli has been involved in the cause to find missing children for 20 yrs. He donates a third of the space in all of his print ads to a missing child’s photo ( and he takes up several full pages in the Community Buyer’s Guide).
In 1997, he had custom frames made and began mounting the pictures of children snatched from their families on his service truck. A California plumber actually conceived the idea. At a meeting of Quality Service Contractors (QSC), an elite group of plumbing, heating and cooling contractors across the country, Marzulli heard a presentation on the project given by the business, Wigginton’s Plumbing. He and seven other Pennsylvania QSC members decided to do the same with their company vehicle. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provides the photographs. “They’re like rolling billboards,” he said, “It’s good because most people who abduct a child don’t stay in state.” But the toilet paper concept? It’s been flushed , for now. For the past five years, Marzulli and his staff have taped, by hand, thousands upon thousands of paper sheets imprinted with the haunting images onto rolls of white paper. Every November, they throw them to the crowd at the Mayfair – Holmesburg parade in hopes that someone might recognize one of the children pictured. “What good is it to just go just right through the parade?” Marzulli said. “People need to be aware.” But last year, things got a little crazy. Ten-year-olds man-handled anyone in their way. Grown women dove through innocent bystanders. Beer-bellied men toppled their lawn chairs in their rush to catch the Marzulli truck. All for some free TP. Someone’s going to get hurt,” Marzulli said. So we said we weren’t going to do it anymore.” Beside the frenzy it induces, it can get expensive. Marzulli and Sons usually gives away about 1,000 each year to the parade. The business pays for the printing-. Marzulli usually at Kinko’s at 3 am the morning of the parade and most of the toilet paper. Marzulli said he approached every chain in the area that sells toilet paper to ask for donations. A few have given some in past parades, but there were no takers last year. “ When I think what we’re doing and how small we are compared to these people, I mean we’re not even on the map,” he said. “We’re spending all this money to help people. The more paper we have the more pictures we can get out.” He took his case to the corporate headquarters of Scott paper. They offered a tractor trailer with 100,000 rolls whenever Marzulli wants it. He’s not sure when he’ll take them up on it, and he might not need quite that much, but he’s grateful.
“ If your own child was abducted, how much would you spend?”he said. “You’d be knocking on doors. Would you leave it to the police? If it was my kid, are you kidding? I had a dog that was missing and I stuck pictures on poles. And that’s an animal.
Recently named the Marz Award Winning Service Co., Marzulli and Sons has won a slew of awards, including the Best of the Home Construction Industry from the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Pennsylvania in 1996 and last year’s National Contractors of the year from the National Association of Plumbing , Heating & Cooling Contractors. Marzulli said the business, founded in 1925 by his grandfather Michael Marzulli, will continue its mission to help people with real problems- not just plumbing predicaments- whether it’s in the form of cofounding a bilingual school in Haiti, which he did in 1998, or Scott toilet paper. “The first year I rode that truck with the missing kid’s poster I was blown away,” he said. I was watching the people’s faces and I saw the mother’s and everyone there to have fun. But I saw those mother’s grabbing their kids by the arm, pulling them real close and pointing to the truck, “ You see that?” ‘that what sucked me in. We made them think?’