ICS Magazine

Cleaning supplies, services in short supply

June 24, 2008

FOND DU LAC, Wis. -- Cleaning supplies are a little easier to find now in Fond du Lac, but cleaning services are another matter.

Heavy rain and flooding on June 12 sent homeowners rushing to the store for bleach and sanitation products. Most stores were sold out by the next day.

Rick and Vic's Piggly Wiggly, 131 University Drive, ran out of bleach on Saturday, said Manager Ted Guell. Three more pallets arrived on Monday, but there's no way to tell how long they'll last.

The store has also ordered more rubber gloves and garbage bags. Guell said it may be difficult to keep the shelves stocked, especially since cleanup will take time. Many residents were still busy throwing out ruined belongings on Tuesday. As citizens clear their homes, they'll need more products for sterilizing areas.

"This is going to go on for weeks," he said. "The demand is so great that it's going to run out. The problem is everyone needs the same thing."

Despite a potential shortage, Piggly Wiggly is not limiting how much bleach customers can buy, said Guell. Citizens haven't been so lucky with household services. Dry cleaners, cleaning companies and carpet specialists have received so many requests lately that they've worked longer days. Even then, they've had to put clients on a waiting list or turn them away.

ServiceMaster can barely keep up, said owner Mark Schroeder. His business has received more than 700 calls since the flood.

Schroeder said workers have put in 10- to 12-hour days and worked the weekend, which they normally don't do. Some help came from ServiceMaster's Eau Claire location, but it still isn't enough. The company is doing what it can, starting with nursing homes and moving down the list.

For Cal Lemmenes, owner of Care'n Cleaners in Waupun, this is the worst disaster in his business' history. Lemmenes, who opened in 1980, said he has never before received so much business from one incident.

A steady stream of customers has been bringing in clothes and bedding for cleaning, he said. Winter clothing that was stored in flooded basements is the most common product.

He had so much business after the flood that he worked Saturday and Sunday. Lemmenes said he usually doesn't work weekends, but he wanted to dry out the floodwater before starting dry cleaning.

"We like to get at it right away," he said.

Like Lemmenes, Bob Budde also pulled a long weekend, and he's still struggling to meet demand. Budde, who runs Carpetmasters Plus out of his Campbellsport home, said he's seen an unprecedented amount of business, fielding 100 to 150 calls.

"Busy isn't the word to describe it," he said.

Requests for cleaning began at 6:30 p.m. June 12, but Budde had problems of his own - his home had flooded. On Friday, June 13, he couldn't leave for work in the morning because the roads were impassable. He left after the water receded and cleaned until nearly midnight.

And so began the triathlon. Budde was on the job from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, he said he worked from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday began at 5 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m.

"I ran out of energy due to exhaustion," he said.

That's not all that ran short. Budde said he didn't have enough drying equipment to go around the first day. He has 16 fans, five dehydrators and various smaller driers. Never before have all of them been in use simultaneously.

By Tuesday, he wasn't sure how to feel about all of the business he's had.

"It's bad for everybody, but it's good for business," he said. "It's unfortunate what happened to the city."