In 2006, when single mom Alissa Cimino went looking for a business to buy, a small ad in the newspaper caught her eye: “Window cleaning business for sale.”
Cimino, a Nevada County native, was intrigued. She wanted a job that would allow her some flexibility and give her time with her kids.
“I thought to myself, ‘I grew up on a ranch — I’m not afraid of hard work — how hard could it be?’” she said. “But after purchasing the business, I realized there was one thing I hadn’t taken into account — I’m afraid of heights.”
As it turns out, the business of window cleaning routinely involves tall ladders and scaffolding — two things Cimino still does her best to avoid.
Yet her fear of heights ending up serving as the motivator to hire a staff that was licensed, bonded, insured and highly trained, which meant she could streamline the job training process. She took the plunge and bought top-notch equipment and a $1 million insurance policy and required her team to have criminal background checks and undergo drug testing — something rarely done in the business. She offered senior discounts, free estimates and included cleaning tracks, sills, screens and frames at no extra charge.
It paid off.
Cimino’s business, Blu Sky Window Cleaning, now has more than 220 commercial accounts all over Nevada County. They also service residential and industrial properties in addition to many government buildings, such as the Nevada County Courthouse, the Nevada Irrigation District’s offices and the Public Defender’s Office.
There are now three trucks and five employees, who generally work in teams of two — one cleans inside while the other cleans outside simultaneously, which cuts the cleaning time in half, Cimino said. When needed — such as in homes — the staff uses drop cloths and wears booties so dirt is not left behind.
Blu Sky cleans exterior glass with deionized water, which does not cause spotting or a mineral residue. Each truck is equipped with water tanks with sand beds that leach out the minerals. One of the company’s key jobs is removing hard water stains from windows and shower doors.
They buy “huck” towels — which are 100 percent cotton — in 100-pound boxes.
“Over the years, glass has become more and more scientifically advanced,” said Cimino. “We have to be sure we’re using the right solution on the right glass. We clean it down to the pore.”
Blu Sky is a “green company” and uses no chemicals, Cimino said. If a window is not performing well, Blu Sky will research the warranty, and help clients get a replacement or repair.
The company has also recently teamed up with California Solar Electric Company to clean solar panels, including a free cleaning with installation. If it rains the day after your windows are cleaned and there is new spotting, Blu Sky will fix it at no cost.
Cimino said the rest of her staff are all males because “there just aren’t that many women who are into dirt, webs, lizards and spiders.”
When she’s out on a job with her staff, Cimino says it’s not uncommon for clients to assume one of the men is in charge.
“My staff always has to gesture toward me,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘Talk to her — she’s the boss.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.