Member Spotlight

IKECA turns the spotlight on member companies to demonstrate their values, history and excellence in the industry, and how they benefit from being members of our association. Member company submissions will be published in IKECA e-News and on the new IKECA Blog. If you are interested in sharing your story with IKECA members and the industry, complete this questionnaire and submit it with your logo to information@ikeca.org.  We will run spotlights in order of receipt, with the exception of the month prior to, and of, annual meetings, where we aim to feature local-area members.

Core Mechanical, Inc

ikeca member spotlight

By Chuck Howick, Sr. VP Core Mechanical, Inc., Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Division

1. How and where did your company start?
Core’s IAQ Division naturally evolved from Core’s roots as a company performing HVAC installations, service, & repairs. Simply put, our clients needed more. They came to realize that routine cleaning was a key element of “servicing” their systems, directly leading to fewer repairs and longer lasting units.

2. What area does your company service?
Total Indoor Air Quality.

3. What does your company stand for?
Core Mechanical, Inc. is committed to continuously improving its services in order to better satisfy the needs of its customers, exceed their expectations and deliver on time, high quality services.

4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
When you think of HVAC, you picture conditioning the air you already have (Heating / Cooling / Filtering / Dehumidification / Humidification), but to achieve Total IAQ, you must be able to isolate and remove contaminants prior to them becoming part of the interior atmosphere. Kitchen exhausts do just that. So to maintain their performance we needed to keep them functioning as designed… by cleaning them.

5. What did you do in your prior life before KEC? 
USN Nuclear Enlisted Machinist Mate, Engineering Laboratory Technician, and Officer.

6. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?  
The misconception that kitchen exhausts sole purpose was to keep grease from entering the buildings air. Very few consider the enormous amount of heat, moisture, smoke, and cooking odors that accompany that grease. A typical HVAC system would be overcome by these contaminants well before the grease built up to problem levels. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen grease an inch thick with multiple fungal growths thriving in the slime!

7. How did you get your passion for KEC and describe your passion for the industry in words?
I may have already partially answered this in question 4. You can’t have total IAQ without a fully functioning kitchen exhaust. Cleaning & servicing KE’s is a necessary step to reaching total IAQ.

8. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today?
IKECA is all about risk mitigation through training, awareness, and compliance. Delivering these attributes to my team inherently brought about the quality we desired. Technicians typically show up to work thinking they are going to do a good job. With tools in their bag including this training & awareness, they are guaranteed to succeed. With a company climate strongly embracing compliance, you get a win – win every time.

9. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you to achieve them?
IKECA provided the resources I needed to perfectly execute my projects in order to get return customers!

10. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member? 
Immediate access to knowledge sharing. Goes back to question 8, providing the tools my team needs.

11. What would you most want to say to the AHJ’s about our industry? 
Consider making IKECA membership a requirement to receive kitchen exhaust cleaning contracts.  Continue to increase awareness of IKECA.

12. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry?  
I borrowed this from the IKECA website: “Hire Only the Best Trained and Certified IKECA Members” to clean & service your exhaust systems! The lowest bidder may not be the “best value” for your kitchen exhaust needs. Take the time to determine “best value”, it will pay dividends.

13. What is your favorite hobby?  
Target shooting all types of firearms.  I am thrilled by the engineering behind them and the skill needed to use them.  The kid in me still likes the big boom also.

Grease Stop, LLC

ikeca member spotlight

1. How and where did your company start?
In November 2004 when I bought a dealership based in Reading, PA.

2. What area does your company service?
We currently cover a 4 hour radius from Reading including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and New York.

3. What does your company stand for?
Most companies will tell you quality. Well, to me that is understood. If you are not a quality company, you will not grow the business.  The main reason, which I have learned while being a sales executive for Xerox, is that people do not make decisions based solely on price, quality, or contracts. All these are factors of the decision making process, but good service and customer satisfaction ranks highest. At Grease Stop, we have national accounts, major stadiums, mom and pops, fast foods, schools and churches. We earn the customer’s trust regardless of size, by providing excellent service and customer satisfaction. This creates a good customer-vendor relationship.

4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
The commute, the government, and being an employee convinced me to start my own business. Without any knowledge of this industry, I had an opportunity to become a dealer of a hood cleaning company with territory back in Reading, PA, my home town. There was no business plan or process presented.  I was part of approximately 15 other dealers with no experience, learning on our own and paying the price for our mistakes.

5. What did you do in your prior life before KEC?
I was a Xerox sales executive for 22 years, living in Annapolis, MD selling data center mainframe printers to the Federal government in Washington, DC.

6. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?
First of all, I never knew about the KEC industry. What surprised me most was the amount of grease that we had to take out of the kitchen exhaust systems to make it clean. We discovered that not all hood cleaning companies would clean the entire system.  We discovered that the fan did not have a hinge kit or grease containment, horizontal ducts were not cleaned, or access panels were not opened. There didn’t seem to be regulations controlling the process of cleaning within the KEC industry.

7. How did you get your passion for KEC and describe your passion for the industry in words?
In 2011, I broke away from that dealership and created Grease Stop, LLC. I wanted to learn more about the industry so I was reading the information on other KEC websites. One of the sites was Nelbud’s site, and I decided to email Nelson Dilg. He suggested that I look into joining IKECA. I checked out the IKECA website and decided this was exactly what I was looking for to gain this industry knowledge.

8. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today? 
The key to do this is in two parts. Part one: thoroughly train and certify your employees. Part two: Maintain the quality and detail of the processes. At Grease Stop, administration, management and clerical work together in the job preparation process. The technicians arrive to start their shift, read their work orders, and confirm appointments to complete their scheduled jobs. Follow-ups with picture reviews, customer calls and deficiency reports are always completed the next day. Every company basically performs the same process in cleaning. However, it is the detail and follow-up with the customer that makes the quality process outstanding.

9. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you to achieve them?
I wanted to know the KEC industry to further my knowledge and understanding. I wanted to learn about OSHA, EPA, Worker’s Compensation, liability insurance, personnel issues, and payroll. The bi-annual meetings have opened my eyes to all of this. IKECA has also introduced to me other owners which are willing to work together for the growth of the industry. The C-10 is a perfect example of this.

10. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
The sharing of industry knowledge, helping to make each KEC business successful.

11. What would you most want to say to the AHJ’s about our industry?
Our industry needs to work together with all the local AHJ’s. Please reach out to the IKECA members within your territory so we can help keep the industry safe from fire.

12. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry?
Take our reports more seriously and correct the deficiencies to keep your restaurant safe.

13. What is your favorite hobby?
Boating and fishing in my Cutwater on Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay.

Chief Fire Prevention & Mechanical Corp.

ikeca member spotlight

By Frank Mitarotonda, CECS, CESI

1. How and where did your company start?
After graduating from St. John’s University in 1988, I went to work as a Cash Manager for Time Warner, in New York City, only to find I was not cut out to be a pencil pusher. I began my search to become an entrepreneur. I had a former employer who had just purchased a “Mickey Mouse duct cleaning company” called Chief Fire Prevention.   Chief Fire Prevention was established in 1979 by a former volunteer Fire Chief in Mount Vernon, New York and only had six employees at the time. In 1989, Chief Fire was sold and I bought into the company as a managing partner at the age of 24 with two other investors. The company grew from six employees to just under 100 today, with a total of 65,000 square-foot facilities. Within several years, our customer base started to grow rapidly; I soon realized there were many other services that we could provide to our existing customer base, thus the birth of installing kitchen fire system, fire extinguishers, exhaust design and fabrication, electrical and mechanical.

2. What area does your company service?
New York City and the Tri-State Area (New Jersey & Connecticut), proxy 100-mile radius of 10552.

3. What does your company stand for?
Chief Fire Prevention has become a ‘brand’ onto itself. We take pride in our work and the positive impact that it has on our clients and the industry as a whole. Not only do we take pride in the work itself, but we relish in the fact that the industry knows “Chief Fire” as a unique brand that is synonymous with other leaders of innovation and service in their respective industries.

4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
I’m still not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse (insert chuckle here), but it all began 27 years ago when a business partner and I bought out what was then a failing company named ‘Chief Fire Prevention’. From that point on I would visit jobs by day, do the jobs myself at night, sleep an hour or two in the car, and then repeat. The early days were no piece of cake, but I’m happy to look back and reflect on the days when our future wasn’t certain.

5. What did you do in your prior life before KEC?
I worked in the finance industry at Time Warner NYC and as a grocery store manager in a 24-hour open air market in the Bronx during the tumulus decade of the 1980’s. I think this is what laid the foundation to be a fair but tough businessman, and a purveyor of quality goods and services. Quality and dedication to my commitments has always been a badge of honor that I wear proudly.

6. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?
Coming out of St John’s University, I had no idea the industry existed, so naturally the biggest surprise was that this niche market was untouched, untamed and pretty much wide open like the Wild West during the California Gold Rush. The sky was the limit, New York was on the rise, and investment capital was flowing with Trump and other major developers building these majestic castles in the sky. Mayor Rudy Giuliani was cleaning up the city and back then you could see that the pulse of Manhattan was rising again.

7. How did you get your passion for KEC and describe your passion for the industry in words?
The passion I’ve experienced was due to the compassion I felt for the business owners who were getting ripped off by the fly-by-night companies who operated out of a garage and hid behind a fancy business card. The first time I pulled a filter, popped my head in the plenum and looked up into the duct, I was greeted by Mr. Stalagmite and Mrs. Stalactite of grease. I knew this was a severe fire hazard and when I presented my findings to the potential customer he nearly fell to his knees in fear of a fire and the resulting damages, loss of life, lawsuits etc…
Here was a man who had invested everything in his dream, to own a restaurant in the Big Apple, and because of a predatory business practitioner, he could have lost it all in a grease fire like so many have. From that day on I’ve set the tone in my organization that we will never settle for the crutch of mediocrity.

8. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today? 
I set forth in-house safety and quality assurance standards, adapted pressure washing and invested huge amounts of money (that we didn’t have) and bargained that if we educated our customers, they would pay a premium for the best and most innovative service. It worked!

9. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you to achieve them?
IKECA has been a vehicle which has provided a necessary “National Awareness” in regards to fire safe business operations that have been the life-blood of our industry and the businesses it represents. IKECA is a vast coalition of collective partners who strive to be the innovative leaders of a necessary industry. Chief Fire Prevention has benefitted immensely as a member due to the amazing work IKECA has done for the industry as a whole.

10. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
There is immense value in being part of an organization that holds its members to the highest standard. IKECA promotes active and real time information sharing between members and acts as a launching pad for ideas and the shared value that comes from experienced professionals working for a greater and safer industry standard.

11. What would you most want to say to the AHJ’s about our industry?
Our industry exists for the purpose of maintaining a fire safe, hazard free operation of commercial kitchens and industrial exhaust systems as a whole. The industry works to protect both the lives and businesses within the Authority’s Jurisdiction. We see AHJ’s as partners in our quest to ensure that everyone is safe and secure. The importance of what we do cannot and should not be overlooked andor minimized. We can and should work together as partners with the AHJ’s in good faith for the purpose of keeping our communities safe and operationally efficient.

12. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry?
Consider us an industry a partner, one where we mutually benefit from open and honest communication for the purpose of helping you protect your business, employees, and all who could potentially feel the devastating effects of a kitchen exhaust fire. We are a service based industry as well as a protective force that helps allow business continuity and disaster avoidance.

13. What is your favorite hobby?
Sleep. Working in the “City that Never Sleeps”, I don’t get much time for what was a punishment as a child. It has become a luxury as an adult.  So I look forward to my new hobby.

HOODZ of the Mid and Lower Hudson Valley

ikeca member spotlight

By Wayne Tomassi, CECS, CESI

1. How and where did your company start?
In August 2010, my wife Eileen and I completed Franchisee Training at HOODZ International and started our HOODZ franchise in LaGrangeville within Dutchess County, New York, approximately two hours north of New York City.

2. What area does your company service?
As a franchisee, we are given a territory to manage; however, there are currently no other franchises surrounding ours in New York, so we also currently handle clients that are within 1 ½ hours travel from our location. Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Kingston, Saugerties, Ossining, Mt Kisco, and Yorktown are major towns/cities in our territory. Outside our territory we service Middletown, Goshen, Monticello and other locations in Orange and Ulster County.

3.  What does your company stand for?
HOODZ is a kitchen exhaust cleaning company, and like all IKECA members, strives to be recognized not just as a hood cleaner. We like to say, “HOODZ Cleans from Roof-Top to Cook-Top!”. With my experience in the design and maintenance of major exhaust systems, I strive for my franchise to be recognized as a technically competent, professional, high quality service provider that not only cleans exhaust systems, but can perform preventative maintenance to keep them in top condition. In doing so, I strive that my business also positively reflects on other HOODZ Franchises and IKECA KECs.

4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
When the company closed the plant moving operations overseas, I lost my job 8 months before full retirement, thus losing 60% of my pension. As Facilities Manager, I was one of the last out the door overseeing the closing of the plant by BELFOR Property Restoration, who at that time was starting the BELFOR Franchise Group under its management.  As Facilities Manager in a semiconductor plant, I oversaw maintenance of toxic, solvent, acid and corrosive exhaust systems – doing the same for grease, didn’t seem too far an extreme. Coupled with Eileen’s safety background, HOODZ was a perfect fit.

5. What did you do in your prior life before KEC?
I was a Senior Facilities/Equipment Engineering Manager at a major industrial semiconductor company, with experience in cleanroom design, equipment fit-up and maintenance of both the facilities and equipment. Eileen had over 30 years industrial experience, with nearly 20 years in safety and health administration.

6. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?
That other KECs, the real ones, like other HOODZ Franchisees and IKECA KECs, should not be competitors, but work together to keep commercial kitchens safe and compliant. Our HOODZ franchise was given a list of 2,000 restaurants in our territory, which did not include schools, industrial facilities, hospitals, nursing homes and other kitchens in that count. Simply requiring each to be cleaned twice a year (reality is that many could also be quarterly or monthly), that’s more than 4000 cleans a year, almost 11 per day. Reality is that there are not enough capable and quality KECs to do them all. Therefore, there is enough work for all, we shouldn’t be competitors, and we should work together.

7. How did you get your passion for KEC and describe your passion for the industry in words?
As a lifetime engineer, I’ve always had the passion to evaluate, and try to improve everything that I am challenged with. So taking my engineering experience, I prepared a “Hood Cleaning 101” course that was certified by NY State for AHJs to obtain CEUs to maintain their certifications. We enjoy working with AHJs and fire suppression companies to keep establishments safe and compliant.

8. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today?
The HOODZ Picture Perfect process is an invaluable process to evaluate your crew’s quality by checking their before/after pictures. I also shared my phone number with numerous fire suppression company technicians which service the same localities as my HOODZ franchise. I request that if they ever find poor workmanship from my teams, to take a couple of pics and text them to me immediately. As a result, my HOODZ franchise also receives many referrals from those same fire suppression companies.

9. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you achieve them?
The CECS, and especially the CESI certifications complement my facilities engineering experience to make HOODZ of the Hudson Valley the recognized, best quality KEC in our service area.

10. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
IKECA’s members live up to the goal to advance the quality of cleaning, inspection and maintenance of commercial kitchen exhaust systems worldwide. Being recognized as a member can only be a strong benefit.

11. What would you most want to say to the AHJs about our industry?
Non-qualified, poor quality KECs could actually be more dangerous to commercial kitchens, giving a false sense of security that their systems are clean and safe when they are not. This is demonstrated by localities like Boston, the state of Massachusetts, New York City and others requiring the certification of KECs.

12. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry?
You get what you pay for. Finding the cheapest KEC could actually be more dangerous giving you a false sense of security that your systems are clean and safe when they are not. You want correct and quality cleaning to be performed by a professional the areas that you cannot do yourself.

13. What is your favorite hobby?
Eileen and I enjoy maintaining our koi pond and flower gardens. We frequently enjoy vacationing where we can do some bass fishing, or try to catch some prize sized fish while deep sea fishing. Whenever possible, we like to visit and enjoy the experience of our four grandsons.

Chemiclene, Inc.

ikeca member spotlight

By Thomas Daum, President

1. How and where did your company start?
My grandfather started the company in Jersey City in 1954.

2. What area does your company service?
New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

3.  What does your company stand for?
Hard work and fair pricing.

4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
Kitchen exhaust cleaning is work we have always done for some of our bigger clients and we branched out from there.

5. What did you do in your prior life before KEC?
Our company has also always cleaned HVAC systems.

6. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?
The large amount of companies which are in the industry.

7. How did you get your passion for KEC and describe your passion for the industry in words?
My passion developed from helping the commercial industries that need this type of service. My passion is in developing good relationships with our clients.

8. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today?
In recent years, our technicians use their field experience and work with a safety consultant to plan each specific job to be done as safely, efficiently and quickly as possible. This ultimately saves us, as well as our clients, time and money. It also allows us to make sure that our employees are always up to date with training and any new safety regulations from OSHA that affect our field. I find that the extra cost of a safety consultant makes our customers feel more comfortable with us. I highly recommend that small businesses hire a safety consultant.

9. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you achieve them?
A goal that IKECA helped us to achieve was having the ability as a company to solve any unusual or unique problems for our customers within a job. Whether it’s the IKECA Journal or talking to other members at conferences, we have been able to solve these problems. Another goal that IKECA helped us to achieve is bringing in new business. New customers have called after getting our information from the IKECA website. IKECA allows legitimate businesses within our industry to compete on different, and obviously, better terms than fly-by-night operations.

10. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
Having an organization to lean on for advice, instruction, etc.

11. What would you most want to say to the AHJs about our industry?
Newsletters and seminars are very vital to the industry, especially to newcomers just starting out.
12. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry?
Ours is a service that is needed for your business.
13. What is your favorite hobby?
Golf and spending time with friends.

Vent Tec

ikeca member spotlight

By Rob Hove, CECS, CESI

1. How and where did your company start? 
Vent Tec started life in 1983 as the hood cleaning division of a Seattle fire services company.  We purchased the business in 2004 and changed the name to Vent Tec.

2. What area does your company service?
The Puget Sound area of Western Washington, including Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Bellingham, and surrounding areas.

3.  What does your company stand for?
Our motto is “we clean what you can’t see” and we mean that literally.  We encourage (beg) our customers to inspect our work, and we provide a written guarantee that they will never find anything that was not cleaned, and cleaned well.  Of course we know that few customers will do a real inspection, so we insist they at least look at our slide show of the first cleaning.

4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
I owned a business brokerage for almost 20 years, and this company was the one I could never sell.  It had no profit to speak of, but I was convinced that with proper pricing and cost controls, it could do very well.  We bought it, got rid of unprofitable customers, improved management, and it turned around in about six months.  Of course, that’s not the whole story.…(see question 7).

5. What did you do in your prior life before KEC?
Prior to starting my brokerage, I worked in finance and foreign start-ups for a major oil company.  At one point I worked in a large refinery and discovered to my horror that I was surrounded by the explosive power of a small nuclear bomb.  I learned that “OK”, or “good”, was not good enough.  The goal had to be perfection, and then maybe we wouldn’t blow up.

6. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?
The lack of urgency and importance about fire safety on the part of too many restaurants, some exhaust cleaning companies, and even some AHJs.

7. How did you get your passion for KEC and describe your passion for the industry in words?
My passion came from a 3 am phone call from Seattle Fire Department during the first month I owned the business.  We had two duct fires that month, and I vowed we would never have another.  Lots of hard work and fingers crossed, so far so good.  Our company had a good reputation and our employees thought they were doing good work.  Unfortunately, the standard of quality in our community was very low, so we had a lot of work to do to improve work quality.  Since then, our goal has been to set the highest bar for exhaust cleaning quality in every community we serve.

8. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today?
One of the first things was to join IKECA so I could learn how to do things the right way.  We got rid of the customers that would not pay a price that allowed us to invest the time necessary to do fire safe work.  We implemented a rigorous picture program, and made our employees accountable for their results.  The toughest part was convincing employees that we were serious about quality, and that when we said “do whatever it takes to get it completely clean,” we actually meant it.  Some refused to believe it, and they were replaced.   No one in our company has ever been criticized for spending too much time on a job (although some people have gotten coaching on how to be more productive—there’s a big difference between the two).

9. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you achieve them?
Other than saving our company, not much.  Seriously, every exhaust cleaning company that cares about providing a quality service should be in IKECA.

10. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
Networking with successful people who have valuable things to say.  IKECA also provides an avenue for industry leaders to give back to the community.  It amazes me how many important fire safety advances have come from the hard work of the IKECA founders and many others since.  All of the work is volunteer and uncompensated.  IKECA members should be proud of their organization.

11. What would you most want to say to the AHJs about our industry?

  • Your community probably has far more kitchen exhaust fire hazards than the AHJ expects.
  • Many IKECA members are experts in exhaust system fire safety, and are a valuable resource for AHJs.
  • High quality exhaust cleaning companies need the support of AHJs to address known fire hazard locations.

12. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry?

  • Management in each restaurant makes a decision about whether fire safety is important to them – please make the responsible decision!
  • Inspect your exhaust cleaning vendor’s work. Good companies like to show off their work. Bad companies provide excuses and fuzzy pictures.

13. What is your favorite hobby?
Land yachting, hiking, and reading history.

Hydro Clean

ikeca member spotlight

By Jim Jenkins, CECS

1. How and where did your company start? 
We started in 2001 and ran the business out of our farm just outside of Springfield, MO for several years. We just recently moved to a new location this year.  We acquired a 11,000 sq ft former retail building that had been vacant for a while. We did a complete remodel on the entire building and added overhead doors in the rear to make drive-thru lanes for the crews to clean out and load up their trucks.

2. What area does your company service?
We currently service most of Missouri, the eastern half of Kansas, Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma.

3.  What does your company stand for?
Do it right or do it somewhere else.  There is no place on a bank deposit slip for excuses. Only results go in the bank.

4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
I had just bought some equipment and was doing a variety of different things with it when one day I was visiting my grandpa in the nursing home. I struck up a conversation with the head of maintenance and he asked if I cleaned hoods. I gave him a bid for a couple of their facilities and he gave me the green light.  At the time I did not have any employees so I kidnapped my 92 year old grandpa from the west wing and put him to work. With my lack of experience and the speed and efficiency of a nursing home refugee, we knocked that puppy out in only 4 hours and 45 minutes. We still have those first two accounts to this day and fond memories from a great learning experience.

5. What did you do in your prior life before KEC?
We had a Ford dealership in a small town in Southwest Missouri.

6. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?
When we entered this industry our particular market mainly had a guy or two here and there that were running kind of hit and miss. From the beginning we ran our operation as business and not a side job. That approach helped us get a handle on our market early in the game and it also brought up the level of professionalism for some of our competition.

7. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today?
We are constantly working with our people to find a more efficient way of doing things. We don’t skimp on equipment. If there is a tool that gets the job done better or quicker we will spend the money. We have a very good maintenance program to help minimize breakdowns and reschedules. We also try keep our vehicles and tools clean to present a positive image. One of my pet peeves is to see someone go into a kitchen with dirty equipment and say we are here to clean your hoods. I am sure the managers first thought is how are you going to clean my stuff when you can’t seem to clean your own.

8. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you to achieve them?
It helped us to see the big picture a lot better and how far you could go with this industry.

9. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
For us it has always been networking. There has always been a lot of useful information that we have heard at lunch or during breaks in the hallway. There have been many times that I have been able to make a quick call to a fellow member and resolve a problem from their experiences rather than a trial and error method.

10. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry? 
This is a get what you pay for industry. If someone is cheap there is probably a reason. Is a safety related item the best place to cut expense? In the end, how much could that savings potentially cost if the service is not done properly?

11. What is your favorite hobby?
Family time and restoring old cars.

Airways Cleaning & Fireproofing Co.

ikeca member spotlight

By Tim Greene, CECS, CESI and Joe Jacobs, CESI

1. How and where did your company start?
Tim Greene started in Fort Lauderdale, FL with his mother in 1975.

2. What area does your company service?
We cover the east coast of South Florida, from Fort Pierce to Key West, and west to Naples. We are looking to expand to Orlando in the near future.

3. What does your company stand for?
Doing the right job for the customer or not doing it at all. We will not do half jobs.

4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
Tim Greene: After graduating college, I worked for Airways Cleaning in PA., then migrated south and was allowed to continue using the same name.
Joe Jacobs: I was trying to sell commercial-industrial real estate in Long Island during the Jimmy Carter Presidency, but 22% interest rates prevented success. I was introduced to Long Island Duct Cleaning Company and the rest is history.

5. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?
Tim Greene: I was surprised by the lack of quality service providers.
Joe Jacobs: Before starting in the KEC industry, I did not know a duct (duck) did not have feathers

6. How did you get your passion for KEC and describe your passion for the industry in words?
After learning that the KEC industry was really about fire prevention, I knew that I was doing worthwhile work to help protect the public.

7. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today?

  • Taking good pictures and reviewing them for problem areas
  • Sending notices of hazardous conditions and inaccessible areas to alert customers of problem areas
  • Following up for customer satisfaction

8. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you to achieve them?
We have learned a lot about ventilation, grease fires and fire prevention.

9. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
Having a forum to discuss problems and industry issues while gaining continuous education in the field.

10. What would you most want to say to the AHJs about our industry?
Seek out the educational opportunities of IKECA and the help of IKECA members to help achieve fire safety standards in the food service industry.

11. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry?
TRUST BUT VERIFY: Cheap hood cleaning companies are actually more expensive than you might think with what the increased costs of mechanical breakdowns, repairs and increased fire hazards can cost.

12. What is your favorite hobby?
Tim Greene: Golf
Joe Jacobs: Golf and fishing

Precision Kleen, Inc.

ikeca member spotlight

By Randy Conforti, CECS, CESI

1. How and where did your company start?
My HVAC/R business was out of the back of a service truck in Cleveland OH, for love of money and the ability to hustle. The KEC was the execution of a written business plan.

2. What area does your company service?
It started with Northeast Ohio and now Northern Ohio.

3. What does your company stand for?
Solutions through Service!

4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
I started my Refrigeration/HVAC business over 19 years ago servicing the Food Service Industry back in 2003. After repairing an uncountable number of exhaust fans & make-up air units, my customers would continually ask, why is this always breaking? Then customers would ask can you help, how can you help, please help, to the point of them asking me to clean their exhaust systems. They would comment: “We trust you, we are already doing business with you, we want you to do it, Please!” In 2009, the stars were aligned and my office manager and I agreed to commit to changing an industry in need of help locally. We told our existing customers and started scheduling, we have not looked back and it has exceeded our expectations. It continues to open new doors.

5. What did you do in your prior life before KEC?
I was a Transport Refrigeration Technician working for a Thermo King dealership, a very technical environment. When I took that as far as I could, I went back to trade school in Commercial Refrigeration and worked for a few service companies before I created my own and started my current company.

6. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?
WOW. How unprofessional, archaic, behind the times and in need of change the industry was. It bothered me how looked down upon the industry was when it is real, honest hard work! A restaurant owner said to me once, “who do you get to do that kind of work; I would never do that or want my kids to do that!” It was time to change the conception of the Industry.

7. How did you get your passion for KEC and describe your passion for the industry in words?
You must be passionate about anything first! Anything worth doing, is worth doing right. If you’re not passionate about your work or business you now just have a JOB! The passion I have now comes from all the growth, changes, evolution and advancements we made for ourselves and the local community improvements. The relatively quick acceptance from our local AHJ’s. Something should be able to excite you. If not, you might just be numb. The passion is created from the time I decided to write the business plan, execute it, witness the birth, grow, take on a personality and all the relationships it has created since, it has become more rewarding the HVAC/R side.

8. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today?
When we decided to start the business, the first goal was to raise the bar and set a standard of kitchen exhaust hood cleaning in our community. Having been involved in a kitchen exhaust system fire early on, thinking you have all your proper documentation and procedures, having an attorney and your insurance agent not on the same page reading the same sheet of music. You implement change quickly after that.

9. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you to achieve them?
Raising our own level of standards, showing us there is an exhaust world outside of Cleveland and other business owners and technicians who are truly passionate in this industry and who have made a difference. IKECA and my business philosophy and personal goals are parallel in our alignment.

10. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
There are many. I have a sense of purpose and contribution, IKECA provides that outlet. IKECA has raised my own personal skill set on many levels. Being involved in committees, you are either part of the solution or part of the problem. IKECA displays professionalism, there are real people performing at great levels.

11. What would you most want to say to the AHJ’s about our industry?
I just provided a one-hour, eye-opening, get-out-of-the-dark presentation to the NEOFPA. Ask them what I said.

12. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry?
It should never be about the bottom line or numbers! Listen to the people who protect you and your investment. If you want to compare, know what you’re comparing to.

13. What is your favorite hobby?
Skydiving, I love jumping out of planes!

Liberty Services, Inc.

ikeca member spotlight

By James Luebke

1. How and where did your company start?
My wife Kelly and I started our business in Union, OH in a basement where motorcycles were stored and a 486 computer.

2. What area does your company service?
Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and West Virginia.

3. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
I was selling restaurant paper supplies and everywhere I went they ask me where they could find a good hood cleaner.  So, I went to work at American Steam Cleaning (a hood cleaning company in Greenville, OH) to learn the business.

4. What did you do in your prior life before KEC?
Sold paper supplies to restaurants.

5. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?
How dirty of a job it was!

6. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today?
By implementing a picture program, on-site inspection from 3rd party, and on-site inspection from team supervisor. As well as inventory control from KECsupplies.com, BizUnite Employee Perks, Equipment: hands down, the magnetic duct scraper. As well as our GPS system Fleetmatics.

7. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you to achieve them?
Certification, technologies and tools of the trade.  HR issues, 3-D drawings and better communication with customers on deficiencies.

8. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
Certification, AHJ training, overall learning of KEC industry, and the C-10 standard so owners and companies can understand the code better.

AA Services of MO

ikeca member spotlight

By Joe Dahlem, CECS

I discovered IKECA in 2000 when I was trying to sell a hood cleaning business as a Business Broker.

I talked to Rod Getz the following year.  He convinced me that this Dirty, Dangerous, Dysfunctional, Disgusting business opportunity would eventually become a normal business.  I bought AA Services of MO in October 2002 and attended my first IKECA Technical Seminar five days later.

For new and start-up companies considering the commercial kitchen exhaust cleaning opportunity, in my opinion, it would be foolish to go alone when you have IKECA to guide you. The dozens of friendships I have established have been met with offers to visit other members around the country to see how they approach their businesses. The Annual and Technical meetings can be used as a source of refreshing those relationships and to set up future on-site visits.IKECA affords us a cost effective method of meeting many like-minded businesses trying to become better at what we do.  When I bring in an experienced hood cleaner I often find that person is working in accordance with an earlier standard, using tools that haven’t been used in years. After Service Reports? What are those? Do you mean Don Pfleiderers’ essential method and procedures for capturing proof that the job was done right the first time? You have to be kidding!

How does a company with inferior procedures change?  I would suggest that meeting real people and sharing the struggle is a great way to start. Starting and maintaining a business model is tough enough. To include the cost of IKECA is often considered by startups to be something to do later.  For me, IKECA has made THE difference. We face a tough industry in tough times.  In my opinion, our country is moving toward more government and more regulation creating uncertainty in the marketplace.  Having people to turn to who know your business is invaluable.

Why would any commercial kitchen exhaust cleaning business not want to be a member of IKECA in these coming times? Feel free to share other ideas and concerns at joedahlem@gmail.com.

DunnWell, a Cintas Company

ikeca member spotlight

By Roni Evans, CECS

1. How and where did your company start?
DunnWell started from a restaurant cleaning supply business over 15 years ago. Customers were inquiring regularly about securing dependable and effective kitchen exhaust cleaning for their restaurants. A need was recognized and DunnWell began working to fill that need for both local North Carolina restaurants and national chains who wanted a managed program for all their restaurants.  Since that time DunnWell was acquired by Cintas, growing and serving customers in national accounts for both kitchen exhaust cleaning and fire protection services.

2. What area does your company service?
DunnWell, a Cintas Company currently manages fire prevention and fire protection services for large corporate restaurant, retail and commercial accounts across the United States.

3. What does your company stand for?
DunnWell/Cintas’ vision is to be the best national provider of fire protection and kitchen exhaust services in North America.

4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
My start in the KEC industry began by being hired as the first Customer Service Representative for DunnWell over 9 years ago.  I’ve been an intricate part in shaping DunnWell’s program, working with corporate customers to understand their needs, raising the bar with the technician affiliates in our network to adopt many of the ideals of IKECA, educate them on NFPA #96, and put processes in place that enforce and increase the consistency of the quality of work across the country.  Accomplishing this, DunnWell has raised the standards of our industry on a national basis, one business owner at a time.

5. What did you do in your prior life before KEC?
In my prior life, I worked in several service industries and small businesses which prepared me for the high expectations of the restaurant industry vendors and the challenges our affiliates face every day.

6. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?
Perhaps the most surprising thing was how much customers needed to learn about the importance of this service to their business, and the safety of their employees and customers.  It is still often viewed as a housekeeping service, rather than a fire prevention service. It has been a driving force for me in my career, to get this education out to our customers, authorities having jurisdiction as well as the technicians in our network.

7. How did you get your passion for KEC and describe your passion for the industry in words?
As I learned the business, understood its importance and worked with the people delivering the service, it became my passion to work at all levels in this industry to educate all involved of the important work we do.  Finding new and better ways to reduce the challenges we all face is my focus with everything I do. The people I work with in the field and inside DunnWell share this passion, and it makes it exciting and fun to make strides in this industry toward the ideal we all see in front of us.

8. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today?
DunnWell works with KEC service providers across the country, all operating their businesses differently. Quality control, reviewing documentation and photos for this number of providers is a must to keep the results validated and consistent and to the expectations of our customers. We use NFPA #96 as our guide and have brought many of our affiliates up to a higher standard, exposing them to IKECA and regulations surrounding the work we do together.

9. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you to achieve them?
IKECA has helped in so many ways; it’s hard to point out just one. The power of a group of people sharing ideas and working together toward a common vision has affected the way I do my job, and what success looks like.  IKECA offers tools to assist the people I work with to accomplish the standards that we all look toward.  The experience and passion of the people involved in IKECA are priceless.

10. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
The greatest value for me is to know our industry, the people, the practices, and be an active part of where it’s going in the future.  It affects us all, and we have the strength in numbers and the ability to help direct it.

11. What would you most want to say to the AHJ’s about our industry?
Let IKECA assist you to know more about the kitchen exhaust system, and the risks in this environment. The public looks to you to prioritize these risks and protect them.  IKECA has the tools and expertise to make your job easier.

12. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry?
Educate yourselves about your fire prevention systems, the risks they present, the standards and how to evaluate the services you are receiving.  KEC is more than a cleaning; it’s a life safety service. Value it, and understand it.

Kool Kleen, Inc.

ikeca member spotlight

By Jan Paulat and Kathy Slomer, CECS, Kool Kleen Inc.

1. How and where did your company start?
Rick and Jan Paulat started Kool Kleen Inc. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in1986.   Kathy Slomer, their daughter joined them in 2004.

2. What area does your company service ?
Pittsburgh, Pa and the surrounding areas including Eastern Ohio and Northern West Virginia. Although after this winter, we are ready to find a nice sunny location down South that is in need of a Kitchen Exhaust cleaning company, who is with us on that?

3. What does your company stand for?
Live by our motto “Do what we say we are going to do when we say we are going to do it”.  We are also proud to be in business for almost 30 years, and although at times they drive us absolutely nuts, we  have the best employees that happily, well most of the time, do their job day in and day out despite the weather challenges.

4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
Rick and Jan Paulat started Kool Kleen Inc. with all intentions of building on the business idea they purchased from Business Ops and that was cleaning refrigerant units, evaporators and coils in commercial applications.  Well call after call restaurant or facility managers would point at the hoods and say can you clean these? Rick explained it well, we call it his shrimp philosophy. He said if you go into a restaurant everyday and ask for shrimp and they don’t have it eventually they will add that to the menu. We did the same, every day we were asked to clean the exhaust system so with a lot of hard work we figured out what to do and did it.

5. What did you do in your prior life before KEC?
Rick owned several Aamco Transmissions for 20 years and Jan worked with him for 10 of those years before they started Kool Kleen Inc. Kathy worked as a training manager for Chi Chi’s and then on to Boston Market.

6. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?
Almost 30 years ago there was not a KEC industry and everyday was a surprise. Whether we were dealing with employee issues, what chemical worked best, how to obtain insurance it certainly filled our days with certain unknowns. That is the best part of belonging to IKECA are the ideas that are shared at every meeting.  We can honestly say that still to this day there is not a meeting we don’t come away with something.

7. How did you get your passion for KEC and describe your passion for the industry in words?
In the beginning the passion was the income, although today it still is our passion and to also work with restaurant owners, facility managers, and AHJ’s to educate them on the importance of what we do day in and day out.

8. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today?
Well by a lot of mistakes at first and then we joined IKECA in 1991 after seeing an advertisement in Cleaner Times,  we had to figure out how we were going to pay our application fee let alone start attending meetings but we did. One of the best decisions we made.  We were able to share our stories with others in the industry and come up with solutions that worked.  When we think back to everything we were introduced to over the years whether it was magnetic scrapers, picture programs, chemical, and tools we would not be where we are with quality if it was not for IKECA.

9.  What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
We don’t even know where to start. IKECA has so much to offer when you get involved. Jan served on the board for years and then Kathy became a board member in 2010. We both truly believe that when you get involved the value is endless. There is also so much going on at the Committee levels that when you see a group of members come together and complete a project that benefits all of the members , it’s exciting to see. We are both thrilled with the ANSI/IKECA C-10 and AHJ recruitment.

10. What would you most want to say to the AHJ’s about our industry?
We would say the same to both AHJ’s and restaurants because at the end of the day in our eyes they have the same liability. What we do promotes life safety and it should not be taken lightly. We want them to give us a chance in educating them to understand what we do and why we do it.

11. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry?
That our objective is to keep your facility, staff, and patron’s safe and to understand the importance of what we do. Yes we are often referred to the “hood cleaners” but we are much more than that.

12. What is your favorite hobby?
Jan is a wonderful artist and she’ll kill me for saying that she won 3rd place in a water color show that she recently exhibited in. I was the winner in that; the picture that won is proudly hanging in my home. Kathy loves to do anything outdoors and also scrapbooks.

Interior Maintenance Company

ikeca member spotlight

By Matt Mongiello, CECS, Vice President of IMC

1. How and where did your company start?
Interior Maintenance Company (IMC) was started by my parents, Charles and Maria Mongiello in 1973 as a small janitorial maintenance firm servicing office buildings and small private schools in the suburbs of Philadelphia. It slowly grew to a large company employing over 125 persons. In the late 1980’s, the janitorial industry was changing, and consolidating.  My father began looking for ways to diversify our cleaning services and started a Commercial Air Duct Cleaning Division in 1990. I joined the company full-time in 1991 right after college, following my brother Chuck who had already been working for the company. After establishing the Duct Cleaning Division, we started cleaning kitchen exhaust hood systems in 1998 and formed our Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning Division around 2001. IMC has continued to evolve to provide our customers with a variety of specialty indoor environmental cleaning services including high surface cleaning and duct sealing.

2. What area does your company service?
IMC typically serves the Mid-Atlantic region, but we have completed specialty projects all over the United States including Texas, Florida, Kansas, California, and Hawaii.

3. What does your company stand for?
IMC has always strived to distinguish itself by its business professionalism, and also by providing experienced supervision on every project.

4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
We started in the KEC industry when our duct cleaning customers started asking us about hood cleaning. It was an easy transition because our duct cleaning crews were already working night shifts, they understood the duct system layouts, and they were used to a dirty job. Once we were able to acquire enough business, we stopped mixing the personnel and kept dedicated individuals and management to the KEC division.

5. What did you do in your prior life before KEC?
My family and I have always been in the cleaning business. We are celebrating our 41st anniversary in business this year!

6. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?  
What surprised me the most (and still does) was the difficulty in educating customers about the hazards of incomplete cleaning of the entire exhaust system.  Many facility owners just are not aware of the amount of grease accumulation that occurs in their duct system beyond the hood, and the safety concerns that exist.

7. How did you get your passion for KEC and describe your passion for the industry in words?
I got my passion for KEC by seeing firsthand the grease, and “fuel for the fire” that accumulates within these systems. Coming from the duct cleaning industry, where it may take years for dust and debris to accumulate, it is still amazing to me how quickly grease accumulates.

8. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today?
Quality control is a constant challenge in our industry. We believe that consistent supervision of all facets of the job improve quality control.  Our decision many years ago to incorporate strict photo documentation of every job – no matter how small or large – greatly improved supervision of our field personnel.

9. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you to achieve them?
IKECA helped me to achieve my goals of learning about the industry from speaking with and becoming friends with many of the other IKECA members. IKECA also provides my company with the credibility and professionalism that comes with certification. It helps when selling our services that my customers know we have acquired the knowledge and experience that comes with certification.

10. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
The greatest value in being an IKECA member is meeting with other members. I have always found that speaking with my peers in business is a huge asset in acquiring information and knowledge about our industry. What better way to avoid mistakes than by learning from those who have already succeeded?

11. What would you most want to say to the AHJ’s about our industry?
I would want to say that they need to become more educated!  Find out what is happening in these systems and be aware of the hazards. I would encourage them to ride along on a cleaning and see first-hand what we see every night in the KEC industry.

12. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry?
Same as before – find out what we do!  Stay late at work one night and watch our crew clean. If you know how and what we clean, you can assist us greatly in performing our work well and leaving your restaurant safer and cleaner then when we arrived!

13. What is your favorite hobby?
I enjoy growing and running a company that has served many customers over the years.