For the past 34 years I’ve been running Castaway Carpet Cleaning. I am passionate about the business and have channeled my energy and experience into meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Castaway is the best in the business because we never employ cookie-cutter methods. Every home presents unique challenges and every client has different wishes and expectations, so we customize our work to ensure maximum satisfaction.
Part of the quality comes from our aggressive adoption of the latest equipment and cleaning materials. For example, our basic carpet cleaning unit is a Legend Sapphire cleaning machine that requires physical exertion to push it across carpets because it uses 1,500 pounds of vacuum force that deep-cleans from the pad up, sucking into its hungry maw whatever mites, lint, bug droppings, or other kind of waste are present.
Another source of quality is that we know what we are doing. I’ve attended ten different industry-based courses and, for example, learned the characteristics of different kinds of carpets and interactions of various fabrics with chemicals and cleaners.
Castaway Carpets has two vans mounted with professional state-of-the-art steam cleaning units that are equipped to clean a variety of surfaces including carpets, upholstery, and area rugs, plus tile-and-grout. Carpets maintained at our level of cleanliness are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they improve the hygienic qualities of the rooms they are in. Soiled and dirty carpets become breeding grounds for germs and viruses of all kinds possibly leading to colds, infections, rashes, and other ailments. We leave rooms that are not simply clean at the deepest-levels of clean, but they also smell clean. We don’t merely mask unpleasant odors, but specialize in using a four-step method that eliminates the sources of unpleasant smells.
After more than three decades in the business, Castaway has become the go-to carpet cleaning and maintenance resource for a number of properties, many of them in Trilogy and Summerset. The homeowners simply give us keys to their front doors and set up scheduled cleanings. On the scheduled day, clients come home to find their carpets spic-and-span clean.
We handle a number of jobs that some carpet cleaning companies wouldn’t touch. For example, not long ago, someone called to say that their beloved 18-year-old dog had died in a horrible manner, leaving behind pools of died blood and vomit. Even though our schedule was full that day, we treated this as an emergency, went to their house, and cleaned the area so that by the time they returned home they found no trace to remind them of their beloved pet’s death.
In another case, a woman suffered a serious hemorrhage. She was moved to a hospital leaving behind a large stain on their white carpet. As soon as we learned of the problem, we immediately went to the house and cleaned up the mess. When the woman returned home, everything was fresh and not a trace remained to prompt any memory of the terrible thing that the woman had gone through.
I feel blessed to be working in a profession where I can actually see what I’ve done to create cleanliness and beauty in spaces that had been dirty and shabby looking. No matter how many carpets I’ve cleaned, I can still draw satisfaction from the difference I’ve been able to make to the appearance of a room after I’ve finished my work.
I was born in Sacramento. My folks had been raised in Detroit and had chased the California dream a few years earlier. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to make it happen, so when I was 3 years old they moved to Indiana. Two decades later, I was able to return to California when my husband Michael, who worked for AT&T, was offered a position at the Discovery Bay office. Following our exposure to the cold and relatively bleak Indiana landscapes, our waterfront Discovery Bay home looked the way that we imagined California should look.
In those days, the Discovery Bay experiment was just getting underway. There were relatively few houses and no services. We seemed to be on the very edge of civilization, so when our carpets were in need of cleaning, we discovered that no carpet cleaning service was available to clean them for us. We rented a portable unit from a San Mateo distributor, brought it home, and cleaned the carpets ourselves.
Some neighbors saw what we were doing and asked if we would come clean their carpets. It was all a big joke. However, I was on maternity leave at the time from my job in San Francisco. Our baby was four months old, and I would soon have to get back into the commute. Michael and I had recently become people of faith and had been praying that God would show us a way for me to stay home with our children. After taking the carpet-cleaning machine back, we returned home and saw what a good job we had done. We were so impressed that we began to wonder if God might not be prompting us to start our own carpet cleaning business. By cleaning carpets evenings and weekends, we could make enough money to permit me to be a stay-at-home mom during the daytime. We decided to go for it!
We bought a new machine that was the equivalent of the one we had rented and took it to the house of the neighbors who had asked us to clean their carpets. The new machine had come in a “some assembly required” state. Michael and I had a lot of trouble putting the pieces together. Rather than growing frustrated and angry with the job and with each other, we began laughing at our failures and mistakes. However, we persevered,
finally got the machine assembled and working, cleaned the neighbors’ carpets, and collected our fee. We had become professional carpet cleaners in a single day because we were making money at our business! We were moving ahead!
We set about working on our business plan and realized that we would need to find a suitable name. I was sitting in the back yard meditating and seeking God for a name that people could remember. I suddenly realized how remote our location was, at the time, from any retailers, restaurants, etcetera. The only Discovery Bay business was a gas station named Dash. It suddenly occurred to me that we were like castaways stranded on a desert island, so why not call our business Castaway Carpet Cleaning. The name seemed quirky enough that people would remember. I began to get creative with the name. For example, “We would ‘cast away’ people’s dirt and cares.”
For the next three decades, Michael and I happily engaged in the business while raising four daughters. However, Michael is 15 years older than me, and when he reached 70, he decided he wanted to retire. He was wonderful with people, but his health was declining and he had issues that he needed to address, so we finally agreed on an amicable divorce. He left the business with me and for a couple years served as a resource, offering whatever advice and directions he could.
At the beginning, it was scary to launch into the business by myself. However, I continued to feel that God was still leading me, so I determined that I would not merely survive, but would thrive in the business and be the best I can be. I became trained and certified in many parts of the industry.
I was limited in how much I could do because we had only one truck, so I worked hard, saved my money, and last Christmas bought the second truck, which permitted me to greatly expand the business and to keep two full-time employees busy. Nevertheless, I continue working side-by-side with them on many jobs. As far as I know, Castaway Carpets is the only woman-owned carpet cleaning business in the field — and surely the only one in which the woman does so much of the actual work.
After decades of cleaning people’s carpets, I still love the business and enjoy meeting new people, taking care of them, and in many cases developing close and enduring friendships. In some cases, Castaway has become the go-to carpet cleaning service for extended families. We might serve the couple, their parents, grown children, and aunts and uncles.
CHEERING KIDS ON
We have four daughters and I have been by their side throughout their lives. I was a cheerleader in high school, so when my daughter Nicole started school, I volunteered to serve as cheer coordinator for East County Youth Football. However, they didn’t have enough coaches, so I stepped in to help fill that gap and remained in the position for the next 22 years. I also spent 14 years coaching the Liberty High School’s Varsity Cheerleading Team, teaching complex and dramatic cheerleading routines to the girls, including my daughters. Before I finished, I ended up coaching my granddaughter, as well. I always encouraged my kids to give back to the younger cheerleaders from what they had learned, and each of them ultimately returned to help coach teams at youth football camps.
“I ENJOY MY LIFE OF SERVING OTHERS— DAUGHTERS, YOUNG CHEERLEADING CLIENTS, AND MY CASTAWAY CUSTOMERS.”
Twelve years ago, my daughter Brittani and I founded Legends All-Star Cheerleading. We rented space for a few years and then moved Legends All-Star into a permanent place in Brentwood behind Ace Hardware. We have a fully equipped space; high school teams sometimes use our facility. We also offer tumbling and cheerleading classes to girls with ages ranging from 4 to 18. We treat each of the girls as members of the family.
Legends All-Star has six competitive teams. We teach the girls to be enthusiastic competitors but especially use the training to focus on developing life skills including such things as teamwork, friendship, commitment, and trust. Our goal is to lead each of the girls toward a confident and productive adulthood. We channel their experience with cheerleading toward creating the life-long friendships and developing levels of confidence that will contribute to their eventual success in whatever occupation or profession they choose.
My daughters have become good examples of the process because all four of them are successful professionals. Brittani is managing Legends. Nicole is the head purchasing agent for Lyons Homes. Kimberly was former owner of POSH salon and is a hair stylist at Rake in Brentwood. Kelly, our youngest, studied anthropology and history at UC Santa Cruz and for three years managed San Jose’s Rosicrucian Museum.
I have six grandchildren with ages ranging from 6 to 19. My granddaughter, Baylee Johnson, is now in her second year as a member of the UCLA Bruins Cheerleading Team. They show up to cheer at every athletic event including gymnastic competitions and tennis matches. She has traveled with the teams all over the United States.
I enjoy my life of serving others — daughters, young cheerleading clients, and my Castaway customers. I’m cheerfully taking care of business, family, and life. By the way, Kellie is now helping in the business. A few decades from now, Castaway might still be providing spic-and-span shine to clients’ carpets. That would be good!
Photos By Muhammad Saadiq