By Sarah Hinckley
SOUTHWEST HARBOR — What began as two friends with a vacuum cleaner is quickly growing into one of the fastest growing businesses on the west side of Mount Desert Island.
Pro31 Cleaning Solutions, started by Mindy Proulx, 45, and Breanna Weed, 23, both of Hancock, is newly located on Main Street/Rte 102 in the laundromat building next to the Southwest Food Mart. They focus on using environment-friendly cleaning products and tools that allow them to do much of their cleaning using only water.
In 2016, Proulx and Weed, who became connected at Calvary Chapel Downeast in Trenton, began cleaning houses to earn supplemental income for their families. Soon after, the two established an office at the Union River Center for Innovation, a small business incubator located in Ellsworth.
“Last winter when Breanna and I started, we just decided to keep saying ‘yes’ and let the business grow,” said Proulx. She had no idea how fast that would happen. “There is a lot of [cleaning] work in this area.”
“We saw a need,” she continued. They began with cleaning houses and commercial properties and quickly realized adding a laundry service made sense.
Conversations regarding the laundromat space with building owners the Gott family began at the end of the 2017 summer season. This winter, Acadia Repertory Theatre moved out of a storage space they had rented there. The renovations that followed included a new office space and installation of an industrial-sized iron.
“This is what puts us a step above,” Proulx said.
Just over a year into the business, clients of Pro31 Cleaning Solutions are scattered throughout Downeast Maine. They include room and house rentals on Mount Desert Island, area bed and breakfasts, campgrounds and restaurants. They also specialize in cleaning up construction sites after contractors’ work is complete.
Some clients have animal heads preserved with taxidermy in their houses, including a warthog and polar bear, they said, and keeping those clean is another special skill.
Dry cleaning also can be dropped off at the Southwest Harbor location and crew members will courier it to a business in Ellsworth and back.
In addition to Proulx and Weed, the company has nearly 30 people on its payroll, including Proulx’s daughter, Brailey, 18, who manages in-house services at the laundromat. With a mix of both full-time and part-time staff, Pro31 Cleaning Solutions focuses on hiring retired folks and young, energetic people. They help each other work well together, the owners said.
“So many young people are leaving us here in Maine, and we want to grow to offering benefits,” said Proulx, who has worked as an insurance agent and in the building supply business.
Asked about goals for the company, Proulx smiled at Weed and said, “to handle our growth.” Eventually, she added, they’d like “to have multiple locations throughout the state in vacation hot spots with multiple departments focusing on their various services.”