Golden’s Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning earned $2.60 in its first month in business in 1958. Since then the company has flourished but the modest initial income still amuses the current owners, Justin and Gretchen Rabideau. Gretchen’s grandparents, the Goldens, founded the business and operated it until they turned it over to their daughter and her husband, Gail and Clayton Morris. Justin and Gretchen recently bought the business from her parents, making them the third generation of family owners. Justin works full time in the business, while Gretchen teaches high school English at Northeastern Clinton Central School. In another link with the past, Golden’s still uses a building on Lafayette Street in Plattsburgh built by Gretchen’s grandfather that has a high ceiling designed to hang area rugs for cleaning.
Gretchen grew up in the business which, as it is today, was operated from the family home. She recalled that when she was ten years old, she could take phone calls, learn what the customer was looking for and then schedule the work. Justin comes from a farm background which means he is used to physical work and long hours.
Golden’s owns two specially equipped trucks that have tanks for fresh and dirty water as well as hoses, tools, cleansers, and fittings. Instead of using a small auxiliary motor, heat and power come from the truck’s own engine. A heat exchanger under the truck’s floor uses engine heat to get the cleaning water to 240 degrees. A vacuum hose runs parallel to the water hose and they join in the cleaning wand.
Although the process is commonly referred to as steam cleaning, it is actually very hot water with added cleaning agents that does the work. Hot water under pressure is pushed into the carpet or upholstery, loosening dirt which is then sucked away into the truck’s dirty water tank. Very little water is used in the process; Justin estimated that he can clean for four hours before needing a refill of fresh water. The wastewater is taken to the City of Plattsburgh’s sewage plant for treatment. Advantages to this process are that the customer does not provide electricity, water or need to dispose of the waste water.
Tall buildings can be a bit of a challenge for Golden’s. The Rabideaus described one cleaning job on the tenth floor of an apartment building that required pulling the hoses up with a rope through an open window.
Golden’s also cleans grout, tile and hardwood floors, including stripping the current finish and rewaxing. Although floor cleaning of all types comprises about 80% of their business, they also offer upholstery cleaning, car detailing and water damage restoration. Upholstered furniture is cleaned in a manner similar to carpet cleaning. Hot water is forced into the fabric through a small wand and a vacuum line pulls the dirt and water away. Car detailing is also accomplished with hot water and a small wand, and Golden’s staff will come to wherever your car is to detail it.
Water damage most often happens when pipes break or a hot water tank leaks. Golden’s uses a special infrared camera to locate areas where water damage may not be visible.
The company’s service area includes Plattsburgh and its surrounding communities, as well as Malone, Lake Placid, Elizabethtown, Port Henry and Ticonderoga. On occasion they will take jobs in Vermont. Since they are an independent company, they do not have to adhere to the rules about territories that franchisees have to observe. While Golden’s operates year-round, demand rises dramatically in warmer weather. That is when having a door slightly ajar to accommodate the cleaning hoses is not a problem and windows can be opened to help dry the newly cleaned carpets. Another component of the company’s summer work is cleaning privately owned college housing. Having the students gone makes that work a lot easier.
Gretchen explained that the seasonality of the business can make finding employees difficult. Golden’s has three year-round employees but in the summer, that number jumps to a dozen or more. Some of the employees have been with them for years, while others are found by advertising, although word of mouth seems to be the most effective way to find help.
Another factor complicating matters for Golden’s is that most of their commercial accounts require cleaning at night when there are no customers around. Restaurants comprise a large part of their commercial business, so sometimes their work day doesn’t end until very early the next morning.
What is it that has kept Golden’s Carpet and Upholstery in business for so many decades? “It is our commitment to our customers and our community,” said Gretchen. “We have a guarantee. We want our customers to be happy. If one of them asks us to go over a spot a second time, we will happily do it.” Justin emphasized, “Our employees are taught to please the customer”.
What’s ahead for Golden’s? Gretchen and Justin have a son who, at age seven, is too young to make career decisions but he could become the fourth generation to run this successful Plattsburgh business. We’ll just have to wait and see.