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New cleaning supplier opens in San Carlos Park

February 13, 2009
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FORT MYERS, Fla. – February 3, 2009 (News-Press) -- One of the nation's biggest sellers of janitorial supplies recently opened its first store on Florida's west coast.

The new AmSan shop in Alico Commercial Park, San Carlos Park, stocks and displays more than 800 brand-name items. It includes product demonstration areas for most common floor surfaces, including wood, natural stone, man-made stone, carpet and vinyl composition tile.

AmSan store manager Rosie Alfaro doesn't expect to clean up in these recessionary times, but said she's winning over customers in a region with such longtime local merchants such as Pyramid II Janitorial Supplies and discount big box stores.

Her not-so-secret tool is more than 20 years in janitorial services, most recently as partner in a local cleaning firm.

"I love floors, especially marble and granite. People will come in and say, 'I have this stain. What can I do?' "

Alfaro prescribes a cleaning product, and shows customers how to make it work.

And as time permits she makes sales calls by phone. Two salespeople, Gary Wenger and Tim Malszycki, hit the road to enlist new business customers in Lee and Collier counties. Senior sales representative Wenger said he began courting Southwest Florida customers several years before the store opened last April.

Stock comes from a company warehouse in Pompano Beach. Direct delivery to customers is available for orders of $200 or more.

U.S. demand for janitorial equipment and supplies (excluding chemical products) was projected to rise 3.1 percent annually through 2011 to $7.6 billion, according to a 2007 report from the Freedonia Group, a publisher of industry market research.

Homemakers and cleaning pros alike may buy at the AmSan store: Products range from a non-scratch scrub pad for $1 to a 16-gallon automated floor scrubber now on sale for about $3,500.

Renown, the company's house brand, includes Green Seal-certified products meeting certain standards for use of recycled materials and the absence of artificial inks, chemicals or compounds that are harmful to the environment.

Green cleaning products are gaining mainstream acceptance, and are widely available, said Kylee Snyder. She's a partner in Bonita Springs-based Green Leaf Cleaning, which serves mostly commercial clients in Lee and Collier counties.

What really convinced Snyder to buy from AmSan was Alfaro:

"The expertise of Rosie has been a huge help," said Snyder, who dreamed up her 2-year-old commercial cleaning company with partner Mike Brinkman, while studying at Florida Gulf Coast University.

AmSan's parent company is Interline Brands, a national distributor and direct marketer of maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) products including plumbing, electrical, hardware, security, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, janitorial and sanitation supplies.

Jacksonville-based Interline last month reported it would not meet its fourth-quarter profit outlook, blaming the economic downturn and credit crunch for affecting core customers.

The company slashed 85 full-time positions and announced plans of consolidating 10 distribution centers over the next six months.

What that means for the local AmSan is "we've put off hiring in the store for awhile," Alfaro said, adding the company is taking extra pains to not overstock store inventory.

That setback isn't stopping Alfaro and co-workers from growing the local operation. She scans the newspaper for Collier and Lee county janitorial services acquiring or renewing business occupational licenses.

Alfaro doesn't have numbers for year-over-year comparisons. Her hunch is demand has slowed, but there are fewer cleaning companies to meet it.

Said Alfaro: "Everybody I speak with is struggling with the economy, but they have enough work to keep them busy."

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