How Couple Keeps Maid Service Afloat And Safe Amid Coronavirus

·8 min read

WESTFIELD, NJ — Vincent and Danielle Corso of Westfield have owned their Westfield-based cleaning service, Two Maids & A Mop, since fall of 2017, and obviously never encountered a challenge like the coronavirus pandemic.

While continuing to run the essential business full time, they've had to oversee their twin 11-year-olds' remote schooling, make sure their employees stay safe, make sure their clients remain safe, and keep business steady because, as Vincent said, "This is how we support our family. This is how we pay our mortgage. This is everything to us."

When their customers started reconsidering their service in March, the Corsos asked them individually what they would need and not need. One customer who doesn't drive wanted to suspend cleaning temporarily, but said, "Please bring me some eggs."

"Sometimes, we're their only contact with the outside world," Vincent told Patch on Wednesday.

The Corsos have lived in Westfield for 15 years. Vincent grew up in the New York City area, and Danielle was a Jersey girl from Jackson. They met after college through friends. Vincent went to work in finance, making use of his MBA, and Danielle, a graphic designer, worked for various publications and started a paint-and-sip business.

The pair opened the Two Maids & A Mop franchise on Springfield Avenue in October 2017.

They employ 12 part-time and full-time maids (or "professional house cleaners," as they call them).

In February and early March, according to Danielle, the pair began getting more questions from customers, such as, "What are you doing about germs? What are you doing about disinfecting?"

They got guidance from the national franchise but also took cues from what was going on locally.

"This is such a large country," Vincent said. "We said, 'We have to make the right decision for us, in Westfield, New Jersey.' We took the approach that we'd talk to each customer about their personal choice. Some customers wanted to suspend the service, pause it. Others increased their service from monthly into weekly. We saw a huge increase in commercial work and in residential common areas."

Danielle said some customers suspended service with their kids home but realized that their house was messier with more people around and everyone eating three meals in the house, so they've recently resumed cleaning.

The pair said that they meet with staff each morning at the office. They go over their jobs for the day but they also make sure everyone is healthy. They also discuss any child care issues the staff is having and make sure everyone has enough sanitizer and materials. They encourage employees to use sick or vacation time if they need it.

"If they're sick, they don't have to hide it," Danielle stressed.

Danielle wants to know the same from clients. When they confirm appointments, Danielle said, they remind customers that they should cancel if anyone in the house is ill.

"If they [cleaners] go into a situation," Vincent said, "and it doesn't make sense to be there, or the hear something unusual, we put our staff's safety first. If they walk into a situation and they may be exposed to COVID-19 and they're not prepared for it, we're pulling them off the job. We're not prepared for that. Thankfully, we haven't had that happen."

The couple said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for cleaning, and the company follows all of them in terms of outfitting staff with shoe coverings, gloves, and other necessary protective clothing. They also disinfect all mops and cleaning towels, and they make sure hand-washing is constant. They use new materials from room to room in a house, such as changing materials from the bathroom to the living room.

They also disinfect their vehicles, from the door handles to the steering wheels.

But how do they ensure that the staff stays safe during the off hours? Do the bosses check to see if employees are quarantining?

"We educate them," Vincent said. "I think that's the most important part for us, understanding CDC guidelines, educating our staff. We have an amazing staff. We go over the guidelines." He noted a state guideline that gatherings should be limited to 10 people or fewer. (Social distancing guidelines recommend that people stay at least 6 feet away from strangers.)

Aside from the challenges of keeping everyone safe, Vincent and Danielle have taken on another great challenge that working parents have encountered: helping their kids with distance learning while they work. Their twins, a boy and girl, attend fifth grade in the Westfield public schools.

"Vinnie and I take turns coming in [in the morning]," Danielle said. "We have the morning meeting and get everyone out the door." The parent who isn't running the morning meeting stays home to get the kids ready. The kids often come into the office to do most of their home schooling.

Westfield's parks recently reopened, so the kids take advantage of two parks near the office. They also "have a built-in play date" with each other, Vincent noted, saying they're lucky to have each other. "But they miss their friends and teachers," he said. "We're proud of them. It has not been easy."

Members of the staff have faced family challenges as well. While some had child care lined up, one employee, who has a special-needs child, left work and is collecting unemployment. The pair said they hope she can return when school starts again.

Even with new cleaning jobs, Vincent said they had financial concerns during the first few weeks of the self-quarantine when people were uncertain and business was down. He obtained a PPP loan, the federal government's Payment Protection Program for small businesses.

Vincent also applied for funds from the town's relatively new Westfield United fund for small businesses, which helped keep them afloat, he said.

He said that the Westfield community pulls together in different ways. Two Maids & A Mop has donated sanitizing kits to local police, firefighters and EMTs, and it has volunteered to help local police sanitize their vehicles.

"Everyone around here is pro-local," Vincent said. "They say, 'What can we do to help?' "

Vincent said he wanted to "toot Danielle's horn" a bit by telling a story about a customer who lived alone and whose dog recently passed away. Danielle had an employee print out of a photo of the dog and leave it framed in his house when they were cleaning. Vincent said the man was glad because he didn't have many photos of the dog himself.

The company is also participating in a national campaign to give free home cleanings to moms. To nominate a local mom who could use a cleaning, click here. The company will donate $5 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund for each person who participates in the campaign.

Reopening New Jersey

The couple was asked how they feel about nonessential businesses reopening in New Jersey.

"That's such a loaded question," Vincent said. "I think we need to trust the process and trust the stages our elected officials are putting into place, from the CDC to the state level. I think it was Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo who said that decisions will be based on real data and science, and I think we need to follow that."

"We have to be cautious," Danielle said, "and take slow steps, like when the parks reopened and [officials] said, 'If we see people congregating and not wearing masks, we're going to shut down again.' That would be two steps forward then step back. This is unprecedented. There have been no guidelines for something like this in our lifetime."

(The coronavirus death toll in New Jersey climbed to 9,702 as of Wednesday, up 198 from the day before. While the daily death rate is slowing — it was 460 on its worst day April 30 — governments are recommending reopening slowly to avoid a new spike in cases. Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy issued guidelines to reopen some nonessential businesses.)

So what should people know about cleaning and sanitizing their own home?

Cleaning and sanitizing

Vincent said people should clean off surfaces before they sanitize. "If the surface is not clean of debris and dirt," he said, "the disinfectant attacks the dirt and oil, not the surface."

Danielle said, "High-touch areas are important: doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, toilet seats, faucets. It's always important to give them a once-over. And if you're not feeling well, stay away from everyone else."

"And wash your hands," Vincent stressed.

For more information about their business, click here.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring town of Cranford, the Chamber of Commerce will conduct a webinar next week about "disinfecting and sanitizing your business to reopen in the wake of COVID-19." Click here to find out more information.

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This article originally appeared on the Westfield Patch

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