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Smaller Multifamily Vendors Adapt to the New Normal A Tale of Two Companies

The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing it necessitates have compelled the managing agents and boards of condo and co-op properties to adapt to a “new normal,” changing the way many ordinary tasks are executed, from package delivery to common area cleaning to holding meetings. As the situation has unfolded and evolved, The Cooperator has spoken with and written about how small buildings and associations are handling these everyday issues in self-managed and minimally-managed properties. But how are the small vendors who provide these services -- many of which are the kinds of small businesses most challenged and endangered by COVID-19 -- adapting and staying afloat? We spoke to the owners of two cleaning companies specializing in multifamily properties to see what has changed for them, what has stayed the same, and how they're faring in this profoundly altered business landscape. 

My Kinda Town, Chicago

Jake Silker and his wife Erin own and manage Windy City Cleaning Services and Short Stacks Cleaning -- two small cleaning and maintenance companies that cater to small condominium associations in Chicago. The companies offer slightly different services; Windy City is primarily involved in the cleaning and maintenance of larger commercial properties, COAs, and HOAs, while Short Stacks Cleaning caters to smaller to mid-sized COAs and the mixed-use buildings common in the city of Chicago, as well as residential cleaning services.

“The coronavirus is classified as an emerging pathogen,” says Silker. “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of disinfectants that meet their requirements for disinfection, called List N. We clean based on the continued guidance from the EPA, as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And while using personal protection equipment (PPE) is commonplace now, just a few short weeks ago there was a stigma attached to it as something a sick, contagious, or even crazy person would wear. We did not want to alarm or concern residents, so we communicated to our communities very early on that we would be wearing masks and gloves out of an abundance of caution, both for the safety of our cleaners, and for their community and staff.”   

As for how things have gone since the early days of the pandemic, Silker says that “Some associations have requested an increase in their cleaning frequency, and many buildings have asked us to install hand sanitizer stations near their entries or elevators. There was a bit of a rush to secure some of our supplies - especially masks and gloves, not to mention the basics such as antibacterial soap and toilet paper, which are needed in many of our community rooms.”

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