Everyone staying home is bad for most businesses, but it's especially bad for those who do their business in homes.
Molly Maid of Bloomington reports house calls are down 40% over the last two weeks since Gov. JB Pritzker started closing schools and businesses in response to the coronavirus.
Owner Tim Rixstine said some customers have decided their homes are just too crowded to clean.
“Everyone is home, the dog isn’t in daycare anymore an it’s chaos right now,” he said. “(Customers say) we don’t need more bodies in the house because it’s already upside down.”
Rixstine said Molly Maid staffers take “massive” precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but he understands if customers are leery about letting anyone into their home now.
“We just tell them what we do and let them decide yay or nay,” he said. “We don’t try to change their mind at all.”
Rixstine said his business should survive, but he believes some in the cleaning business will have to close.
“I have several who are friends that have their mortgage, their car payments, their livelihood is dependent on the cleaning business. They are completely stressed out and concerned they are not going to make it, and once this is over with they might be looking for another line of work."
Rixstine said he hopes Congress can provide some relief for small businesses such as his. The Senate approved a $2 trillion aid bill on Wednesday and it awaits action in the House. The measure includes $350 million in loans for small businesses.
He likens the uncertainty of his business' future to driving in the fog.
“You are sitting up on the wheel, your hands are white-knuckled because you are afraid you can’t really see ahead,” he explained. “None of us can really know what things are going to be like tomorrow or a week from now.”
Rixstine said he relies on his own experience of riding the ebbs and flows of the business he’s been in for more than 20 years. He said he’s overcome the 2008 recession and prior to that Y2K when a flood of temporary IT workers left the area.
“I get the phone call that all of these places are gone,” he recalled. "That was like a cliff. I was young, I was in my 20s. I didn’t understand that things go up and things go down. I was naïve and really wasn’t prepared for that.”
Still some regular customers have insisted on paying their monthly bill to ensure the cleaning staff gets paid, even though they told staff they can skip this month.
“That was not an expected turn of events and the staff greatly appreciates the generosity,” he said.
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