Northwest Business Magazine

Success Stories: Kelce & Co.


Meet a family that followed a mother’s passion for cleanliness, and has found success in helping others to maintain clean homes and businesses. Learn how customer service makes the difference in their line of work.

Lisa Campion, owner of Kelce & Co., discusses a cleaning job with Vicki Milazzo, one of many customers who’ve turned to the cleaning and restoration company for dirty jobs. (Tom Clabough photo)

In a universe that takes us from “dust to dust,” it’s no wonder cleanliness is not only a virtue, but also a never-ending job.

For that reason and more, Kelce & Co., with offices at 322 Peoples Ave. in Rockford, has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 34 years. As new surfaces are introduced to the owners of homes and businesses, careful cleaning is required to keep them looking fresh and new.

Owner Lisa Campion says that, with 21 employees, family-owned Kelce & Co. is big enough to provide any service, but small enough to offer that all-important personal touch.

“We provide a lot of personal attention and take that extra step to make our customers feel important,” she says. “Our goal is not only to do a great job of cleaning, but also to provide all the extra touches that protect a home while cleaning it,” she says.

Kelce & Co. began as a carpet cleaning business but has grown to also specialize in cleaning stone, ceramic, upholstery and draperies, and removing pet odor, mold and mildew. It also services commercial customers, cleaning concrete and other hard floors, and commercial carpets and range hoods. Restoration services include fire and water, mold and mildew, painting, reconstruction, and 24-hour emergency services. Janitorial services are provided to office buildings and factories, too.

Although certification isn’t required, Kelce & Co. employees are certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, the most widely recognized national association of its kind.
The newest service offered by Kelce & Co. in recent years, is the application of epoxy floor finishes. This involves grinding down a concrete floor and applying one of many finish options that give it an entirely new look.

“It goes from dull to amazing,” says Campion. Customers end up with a decorative look that’s easy to clean and difficult to damage, whether in a large factory or home garage.

New products continually come onto the market, and people are entranced by their beauty, but they don’t always understand how to maintain them after installation, says Campion.

“People put beautiful products in their homes, but oftentimes they present huge cleaning issues,” she says. “People are afraid to clean because they’re not sure how to do it right. A buildup of dirt, dust or the wrong cleaning products can lead to a dull and dingy look in no time.”

Hardwood floors require cleaning products made just for them. “You don’t want to steam clean hardwood floors,” she says. “Water control is important with hardwood floors, but you also don’t want to use a product that leaves a buildup.”

When areas that need cleaning are ignored, they not only look bad, but are also more difficult and costly to restore to that “new” look, she adds.

Kelce staff members are trained to do each job properly, and learn how to protect a home while they’re in it, says Campion. How they leave a site looking each day is just as important as the work they’re doing for the customer.

“We pride ourselves in the concern we have for people’s property,” says Campion. “We’re careful when we’re in a home and do all we can to protect it while we’re there. “We clean up after ourselves and keep the area clean while working in it. Even if we have to return the next day, we leave the work site in better shape than we found it.”

Tarps, plastic coverings, and booties are used by workers when in a home, whether for a day job, or one that lasts longer. Some fire restoration jobs can take up to two months to finish, and attention to detail is part of the daily job.

Campion personally visits most job sites, before the work begins, to meet the customer, find out what they want done, set goals and offer suggestions to meet those goals.

People aren’t always sure about what a job will require and what it will cost to do the job right, she says. Sometimes, what a customer believes to be a surface cleaning turns out to be a much deeper problem.
When it comes to cleaning, too many people underestimate its importance and how often it needs to be done. Uncleaned areas can contribute to health problems, malfunctioning of equipment and, in the worst cases, present a fire hazard.

The most difficult thing to clean is pet odors and removing them requires special treatment.

“When it comes to pets, people can’t see everything all of the time, and the problem quickly gets out of control,” Campion explains. “When people live with the problem, eventually they get used to it and don’t smell it anymore. If customers are aware of the problem, they think it’s in one area, until our detector shows the problem is often many times bigger.”

Carpets hold a lot of dirt.

Campion explains that a carpet is “the largest filter in the home” and traps dirt and dust. It needs deep cleaning at least once a year, and more often in high-traffic areas. People go to hardwood floors because they’re cleaner, but they, too, have to be regularly cleaned.

“When people go to wood floors, they’re often surprised at how often they need to be cleaned, because they can more easily see the dust,” she says.

Although people can bring area rugs into the Kelce office to be cleaned, most jobs attended to by Kelce & Co. are on-site and within a 50-mile radius of Rockford. Services are offered around the clock.

The company began in 1980, when Lisa’s mom, Gail, decided to take her love for cleaning to a new level, by opening a home carpet cleaning business, founded as a Service Master franchise. Two years later, her husband, Dennis, joined her. Through their work with Service Master, the couple and their employees received specialized training, especially in the areas of fire and water damage.

They remained a Service Master business for 11 years before going independent. Through the years, all five daughters worked in the business, from time to time, to help mom and dad. Campion is the only one who made a career of the family business, once it went independent. She worked there when she was in high school and then moved to Washington, D. C. for a time, before returning to work in sales for her parents. Today, she’s immersed in all aspects of the business. Her mom mainly handles the accounting, and her dad attends to personnel and mechanical matters.

Campion sees a growing market in the wood floor business, as more people turn to hardwood flooring. That surface will always have issues with maintenance and repair, she says.

In the ever-changing world of new home surfaces and new ways to clean them, one thing remains constant: the need for strong customer service.

“I just care what’s going on with my customers,” says Campion. “We’re very ‘hands-on,’ and I want to be at all job sites. We treat people’s homes like we would want our homes to be treated.”

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