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Entrepreneurial spirit drove carpet cleaner to succeed

January 3, 2009
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January 1, 2009 – (Arizona Business Gazette) -- A persistent brother-in-law coupled with an urge to run his own show led Russ VanAllsburg to abandon a successful career as a soup salesman and get into the carpet-cleaning business.

Arizona Carpet & Restoration in Phoenix is an independent operation, with technicians certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration. The operation has an annual growth rate between 8 and 10 percent, VanAllsburg said.

"My brother-in-law had been running a carpet-cleaning franchise and wanted to sell," VanAllsburg said. "And I knew if I wanted to get ahead in the soup business, I would have to relocate to New Jersey. And no, I didn't want to move."

It took his savings and a retirement account, but VanAllsburg bought the business. About a decade ago, his entrepreneurial instincts led him to part ways with the cleaning franchise.

"I felt strongly that we needed individuality and control, to be able to work with our customers in the most helpful, positive and economical way possible, and to provide a level of service that has customers saying 'Wow!'" he said.

It was in that spirit that VanAllsburg built and designed the building that houses his company. It's a utilitarian place, with storage space for cleaning equipment and supplies.

The company also performs fire and smoke restoration and cleaning, so there is space for ozone treatments, which remove smoke smells. There are also large storage areas for household goods awaiting return to renovated or rebuilt homes.

"We only work with one or two households a month," VanAllsburg said. "It takes us anywhere from two to three weeks to inventory and pack the contents of a house."

Severely damaged items may be sent to a company that specializes in their restoration, such as a large taxidermy specimen recently sent for an extensive redo.

Arizona Carpet & Restoration is certified to work with fire-related damage, smoke, soot, water and mold.

"We've learned how to work with soot and smoke in cleaning family heirlooms and artwork," VanAllsburg said. "Oil paintings, particularly, can be very tough; you need to know when to call in an art specialist."

The company works with the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification to ensure that employees are certified and up to date on techniques and strategies.

"The technical side changes constantly," VanAllsburg said. "We work with very different cleaning agents than we did years ago. As a company, we're moving toward greener techniques in cleaning as quickly as possible."

Keeping carpets clean is critical, he said.

"Basically, a wall-to-wall carpet is like a big air filter," he said. "It will hold dust, dirt, pollen dust mites and more. So it can be critically important for people with allergies or breathing problems to keep their carpeting clean."

Professional cleaning should leave no residual odor, and carpets should be dry when the cleaners leave, he said.

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