Not afraid to get their hands dirty, the members of the Prendergast family – Maria, Larry and daughter Jennifer – have turned a menial job into a successful small enterprise, while consistently serving the needs of island businesses.
It all started in 1987 when Maria, better known by her childhood nickname, Bootsie, came from the Philippines to St. Thomas. She wanted to work but she couldn’t find a job. So she created her own.
She put an advertisement in the newspaper, Prendergast said, offering her services to clean houses and soon she was busy. In the early 1990s, one of her regular domestic customers asked if she would take on the task of cleaning his small business.
She tried it and decided she liked the work and wanted to switch from homes to offices.
“So she set off knocking on doors,” going from business to business, looking for jobs, Prendergast said. “She picked up a half dozen offices.”
As her reputation grew, so did her opportunities. In 1993 Columbia Emeralds called her. They needed someone to clean a large company daily. It was getting too much for a one woman operation. “So she hired her first employee,” Prendergast said.
Meanwhile, Prendergast had moved to St. Thomas from the U.S. mainland with his former wife. He had worked in security but when he met and married Maria he was working in the liquor business.
In 1996, when Jennifer was born, he decided it was time for him to join his wife’s business and help grow it.
“I was vice president, but I was also salesman, janitor” and whatever else was needed, he recalled. He incorporated the business as Bootsie’s Cleaning Service and it took off.
“Office cleaning is our forte,” Prendergast said. But the company offers a number of related services, such as carpet cleaning, window washing and floor waxing. It’s licensed, insured and registered as a vendor provider for EDC (Economic Development Commission) beneficiaries, he said.
“We clean according to a customer’s schedule,” he added. “It’s a service business so you’ve got to respond” to needs. Clients include lawyers, doctors, insurers and retail stores.
“Right now we have 13 employees,” he said. “We’ve had a high of 18.”
Things dropped off a bit when the economy slowed, Prendergast said. “It’s starting to pick up again.”
Bootsie’s has several longterm clients. One company has used the service for 18 years, another for 19, he said.
When they aren’t working, you’re likely to find any one of the family on the golf course.
“My wife’s a much better golfer than I am,” Prendergast said. “She’s the best woman golfer on St. Thomas.” Daughter Jennifer is also a greens queen.
Last summer, the family helped sponsor a tournament to give back to the community, raising several thousand dollars for the Virgin Islands Children’s Museum and for the Junior Golfers program.
Bootsie’s Cleaning Service can be contacted by calliong 340-777-5096.