50 Year Anniversary

Reflections and Memories: The ICS 50th Anniversary Q&A

February 4, 2013

Find more ICS 50th Anniversary content at www.icsmag.com/50.

ICS Cleaning Specialist is pleased to be celebrating 50 years as a publication, but we realize that we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the people that have helped shape the cleaning and restoration industry. So we asked many of them to reflect on their time in the industry, as we reflect on ours. Here’s a sample of what some of them had to say. For the complete Q&A, log on to ICSmag.com/50 to browse from each industry professional who was kind enough to share their thoughts.

(Be sure to leave your comments and memories at the bottom of this story in the comments section.)

How would you best sum up the last 50 years (or the time that you’ve been a part) of the carpet cleaning/restoration industry?

Claude Blackburn: Looking back, I recall my first WDR job was an apartment building. We cut open all the carpet seams, removed the sopping wet carpet and hauled it to the “plant.” We dried the structure by turning up the heat, cracking the windows open and “hoped for the best.” The whole process was kind of a joke compared to where we are today.

Mike Palmer: I got to fulfill the American dream – I started a business in my garage and ended up a national and worldwide company with a lot of great people. I was really privileged to help pioneer an industry of cleaning equipment. The people I sold to were also fulfilling the American dream – they were small business people, they were growing – and I think the truckmount gave them some new energy, that they could work better and make more profit. I felt great that I was contributing to other people’s fortune also. I’m glad I could add some value to the industry.

The Most Influential

Over the past several months, we asked readers to nominate who they thought was the most influential person in the cleaning/restoration industry over the past 50 years. Here’s a look at the winner and honorable mentions:


Honorable Mentions: Cliff Monson, Bill Bane, Bill Yeadon, The Pembertons, Kent Berg, Doyle Bloss, Jeff Bishop and Howard Partridge 

Jim Roden: We’ve changed from a shampooing method, overall, to an extraction method as far as cleaning is concerned. The extraction method gives us more variables as far as equipment is concerned and less on chemicals as far as chemistry as concerned. I would say during that period of time, that became a major thrust.

Wanda York: When we became involved in the industry there was no “industry” as we know it pertaining to on-site workers. There was the large rug cleaning plants that sometimes sent out people to “shampoo” carpets. There were janitorial firms that shampooed carpets as part of their cleaning of businesses. A few people were making “steam cleaning” machines in their garages. We became involved when Ed agreed to sell some machines for a friend. We knew nothing about the furor going on about the merits of “steam cleaning” versus shampoo, but were soon to learn about it. The first show Ed went to, he was surprised to find that people watched his demonstrations from a distance. We didn’t know any better so we were convinced that steam cleaning was an innovation that’s time had come.

Ellen Amirkhan: In the most basic practices, the rug cleaning business has not changed dramatically. However, the complexity of cleaning so many different types of modern rugs far exceeds the complexity of cleaning rugs from 40-plus years ago. In the distant past, the secret to cleaning rugs was that there were no secrets. Today, one has to be much more informed due to the many combinations of materials, constructions and dyes used to make today’s area rugs.   

In your opinion, what have been some of the most significant events and milestones to impact the industry over the past 50 years? What about some of the most significant people?

Barry Costa: On the water damage restoration side in the 1970’s, we removed the carpet, brought it back to a shop, hung it to dry then brought it back to be reinstalled. Who checked the walls? Lloyd Weaver created one of the first air movers - a metal box that you plugged an electrical cord into. How did we not electrocute ourselves? Claude Blackburn, who started out creating blocks, created one of the most successful restoration equipment manufacturers in the industry. How many of you remember the convention when Lloyd met Claude?

Bill Bane: Over the years I had the privilege of working with Mr. “O” (Howard Olansky) on several projects of mutual interest. Perhaps the endeavor with the greatest benefit to our entire industry was taking on the Council of Better Business Bureaus. In 1974, CBBB issued an edict that prohibited the use of the word “steam” in carpet cleaners’ advertising. We collaborated to persuade the CBBB and associations such as AIDS, the forerunner of the RIA, that persecuting “steam” carpet cleaners was wrong.

Dave Keiter: In central Nebraska, we had to travel to the teachers and schools run by the suppliers. Ralph Bloss of Steam Way International was by far the single most influential person in my business success. Ralph had vision beyond the present as he was able to see the industry’s direction with wonderful clarity. Ralph had the gifts of knowledge and reason that seemed to flow from his daily life. He had a great insight into connecting people with resources. He gave more than he consumed. Ralph gave without pausing for his equality. He knew his success would come from those he served.

Jeff Bishop: (In the early 1970’s) I shadowed Martin King, father of modern industry fire restoration, for two days in Silver Springs, MD. I sat below Martin, Major Long and Dr. Steve Spivak, as they lectured on cleaning and restoration procedures at the AIDS Convention in Atlanta, GA. It was there that I first met Ed York. Ed was filled with ideas and concepts, many of which were partially formed. He rapidly established Blue Ribbon Carpet Cleaning, Steam Services Associates, Fiber Cleaning Schools of America (FCSA), the Society of Cleaning Technicians (SCT), the IICUC and Disaster Kleenup. With the help of his gifted and patient wife, Wanda, and the industry talent that was drawn to Ed, many remarkable technical and marketing ideas became a reality.

What are some of your fondest memories of being involved in the industry in years past?

Craig Jasper: My most memorable moments have been with all the cleaning and restoration contractors throughout my short time. The members of this industry are unique - they are the salt of the earth. We get more thrill and pleasure out of doing a good job than the money we make for doing it.

Larry Cooper: I had the honor to work on the development of Standards in the industry working with the best of the best in the world and those who committed untold amounts of time and energy. So many hours/days were spent with Barry Costa, Jim Holland, Mike West, Jeff Bishop, Claudia Ramirez, Dane Gregory, Dan Bernazzani, Eric Rottmeister, Gene Cole, PhD, Howie Wolf, Doug Bradford, Carey Vermeulen, Bob Baker, Joe Arrigo, Jim Pearson, Tom Yacobellis, Carey Mitchell, Larry Carlson, James Mullins, Bill Yeadon and Brandon Burton and so many more!

Mike Roden: Some of my fondest memories were when I was able to bring new technology to the industry and see it readily accepted and applied to decrease down time, improve safety and reduce customer expenses. A couple examples would be the heat exchange technology and the hard surface cleaning tool. The dealer shows, where we were able to showcase new innovative technologies, were always a highlight. Watching the industry grow from an idea into a mature industry and see it spread around the globe has been most rewarding.

Steve Kaufman: After 36 years in this business, it still amazes me how tight a group we are. Go to the trade shows or pick up an ICS magazine and you’ll see people you know or have seen or talked to at one time or another. It can take me a whole three days just to get from one side of the trade show to the other. It really feels great to be a part of a big family.

Brian Kornet: I remember going to my first New York Rug Cleaner’s meeting when I was 11 years old. I knew then that this was going to be my profession. I enjoyed working with my father until his retirement. What can be better than doing the thing you like best with the person that inspired you all through life? My father taught me to give back to the industry and I have enjoyed years of devotion to the New York Rug Cleaner’s Institute, the IICRC and now to the Marble Institute of America and The League of Hard Surfaces.

Kenway Mead: Connections was very meaningful to me, especially receiving the first Connections Leadership Award. Having the name of the award become the Kenway Mead Leadership Award has been one the highlights of my life.

Chuck Monson: There are many individuals who have built companies that manufacture truckmount and portable equipment, or started retail stores selling carpet cleaning equipment, or started carpet cleaning franchises, but no one has contributed such a tremendous improvement in carpet cleaning technology, started more people in the carpet cleaning business or helped more people to be able to stay in the carpet cleaning business than Cliff Monson and Rotovac. Cliff Monson has actually changed the way carpets are cleaned around the world.

Moving forward, what do you see in store for the cleaning/restoration industry’s future?

Doyle Bloss: I am going to sound like a U.S. President starting his/her “state of the union” address with this, but ladies and gentlemen, the future of the professional carpet cleaning and restoration industry is strong. Many an organization or investment group has introduced their new venture with the goal of “gluing” together a fragmented industry. Most of these ventures to “dominate” our industry have failed miserably. Some would take that to be a negative. I view it as the strength of this industry. The independent nature of our industry has developed hugely successful cleaning and restoration companies – both independent and franchise. It has developed numerous organizations and trade associations, each with their own strengths geared toward the needs of their specific membership. It has developed six or more recognized ways to professionally clean a carpet, allowing the carpet owner to find just the right way to clean their carpet in their environment. I believe our industry will always be a source of independent thought and innovative ideas.

Tom Hill: I see continued advancement and sophistication for the cleaning and restoration industry. Advances in equipment technology, consumer awareness and industry networking will all play a part in the industry’s continued growth. Credentials such as certification will continue to gain in importance as consumers, insurance companies, government agencies and the like all seek to deal with proven professionals.

Pete Consigli: Our industry has matured to the point now where the general public expects to get the same kind of quality service from a cleaning company or a restoration company than they would from any other market-leading company. We don’t get a pass. That doesn’t cut it anymore. (In addition), if businesses don’t pay attention to the marketing, the management side of their business… you’re not going to be in business. The industry has struggled with that for years – I think we’re doing better.

Mike Lynch: More change, more change and more change. Those willing to change, diversify, hustle and get educated will survive. Those who won’t embrace these attitudes will not survive. But as in the past, the companies who are willing to pay the price, the future is bright and full of opportunity.

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