Road to Recovery: New normal for local cleaning business
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — On Tuesday morning, Ernesto Perez drove to Hayden to clean a house for a client who was planning to move into the home.
“Right now, we are still working,” Perez said of the cleaning business he owns with his wife, Leyda. “But, we are not completely back to normal.”
Perez moved to Steamboat Springs in 1991 and opened Perez Cleaning in 1996. The longtime businessman was quick to acknowledge that nothing has been normal about this spring and summer after COVID-19 arrived in March.
“Basically, we stopped working for a month and a half,” he said.
When he was able to reopen his business again, the safety of his family members, his employees and his clients became his top priority.
Now, his employees wear masks and use gloves when cleaning, and he has changed some of the mixtures in his natural cleaning solutions to make them more effective at sanitizing surfaces. He said he mixes his own cleaning supplies and uses bleach and alcohol diluted with water as part of a disinfection process.
Prior to COVID-19, Perez said he had about 10 employees, and the bulk of his business was cleaning private homes, construction sites and a handful of properties in the area. He also cleans windows, carpets, tile and grout.
But business is not what it was before the pandemic, and he has reduced his staff from 10 employees to about six, which includes his wife, mother-in-law and father-in-law plus two women who work five days a week. He also has been selective about the jobs he will take because of fears over being exposed to the novel coronavirus.
“We are concerned about it, but in the meantime, we have to pay the bills,” Perez said of the virus. “We cannot take in more workers, and we cannot take in more clients. … We don’t want it to be too crazy, and we just want enough to keep moving and not totally stop.”
He said many of his clients have reduced the number of times they want him to come to clean their homes.
“I’m just kind of worried about it because I have a family, too, and in the meantime, my clients have a family too and everybody’s kind of concerned,” Perez said. “We are talking to our people to figure out what works. Sometimes, we come once a week; sometimes, they want to do every three weeks or maybe once a month or something like that. But it’s not like it was. It’s not normal.”
In this time of uncertainty, Perez said he trying to diversify his business. That means working with a variety of clients and adding different services.
Like so many people, Perez is looking forward to the end of this pandemic and a return to normal.
“I think that it’s going to get better, and I’m pretty sure that Steamboat is going to be ready to get back open,” Perez said. “At the beginning, basically, it’s going to be kind of a slow thing, but as soon it gets started, I’m pretty sure it’s going to take off. We just need to wait — have patience basically.”
The Road to Recovery series is part of the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s ongoing efforts to report on how COVID-19 is impacting Steamboat Springs and Routt County. This series is supported in part by a grant from Google’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.
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