All In The Family
Photos by Emma Highfill, Rose Wheat Photography
Dan Chavez knew it would soon be time to find a new General Manager for Chavez Restoration and Cleaning. He wondered if Amanda was ready to take the job.
A true family business, Chavez siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins have worked beside many very dedicated employees through five decades to build the business Dan’s father, Trinidad Chavez, started in 1967.
Dan’s son, Nick, had already helped the business reach into a third generation by joining his father }at the company 13 years ago. Nick currently shares operational management responsibilities with Steve Ortega, who has been with the company for more than 30 years. The question was, could Amanda, who had grown up in the industry but veered toward a career in development, see herself taking on the dream of coming back into the family business?
“We wanted to make sure it would be the right decision for all of us,” Amanda Chavez said. “I knew it was something I wanted to do. It is an honor to carry on the family name. I knew, looking back in five years, I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t try.”
She said, “yes.”
In January, Amanda Chavez became General Manager of Chavez Restoration and Cleaning.
AN AMERICAN DREAM
Trinidad Chavez started the company 52 years ago as a carpet cleaning service. Dan Chavez calls his father’s story a true American Dream. Trinidad was born in a railroad car just outside of Lawrence as the oldest of 13 children. He had to leave school after 10th grade to go to work to help the family.
“I always wondered, if he had the opportunity to finish school, where he would have ended up,” Dan Chavez said.
Trinidad, who was always work and provider oriented, started Chavez Restoration and Cleaning when he saw a need for good carpet cleaning services in Topeka. In the 1970s, the company expanded into janitorial cleaning and other types of cleaning.
“Most of the business evolved with client-based needs, but my father was always about staying on the forefront of the industry,” Dan Chavez said. “He found a way to get himself and my older brother to classes across the nation. We were on the forefront of restoration.”
A big market need at the time was cleaning up water-logged basements. That work typically involved pulling all the wet carpet out of a basement, drying it and re-installing or replacing it. Chavez learned to do things differently and to dry the area thoroughly instead. He brought this form of structural restoration to Northeast Kansas. Chavez also started working on fire restoration services before many people were doing that work.
Being on the cutting edge is not always easy. When they began drying out basements, it brought the added benefit of less cost and fewer hassles for the homeowner, Dan Chavez explains. They had to convince insurance companies that drying would work, and provide a better result for everyone.
“A contractor can come and tear everything out and build it new. That’s okay, if there’s a need to. Our goal as professionals is to restore it, to dry it out. We are actually restoring what was there,” Dan Chavez said.
Their success has opened the door for more competition. Seeing the business opportunities, other companies eventually began to offer similar restoration services in the area. As a business owner, Dan Chavez says they try to keep their own business strong by being the best at what they do.
“We want to have people calling us because they respect our professionalism. I want to make sure things are done correctly. We try to do a better job than anybody else,” Dan Chavez said.
FOLLOWING IN FOOTSTEPS
Nick Chavez says he fell in love with the restoration business when he was a young child. He remembers tagging along on a water loss situation at Shawnee Heights when he was about 10 years old and watching the whole operation.
“You meet people in stressful situations and you get to make their situation a lot better, and they are smiling by the time you leave. That’s pretty rewarding,” Nick Chavez said.
He always knew he wanted to work in the business. Nick also takes a lot of pride in continuing something his grandfather started. That, however, does not necessarily mean continuing to do things in the same way previous generations did it. In fact, the key element Nick and Amanda want to emulate is Trinidad Chavez’s push to be on the forefront of the industry.
50-PLUS-YEAR-OLD START UP
“I think one of the things we’ve said about the third generation is that we are a 50-plus-year-old start up, right now. We are looking at all of our services. We are looking at adding new services. We are looking at what we need to do to be successful in the future,” Amanda Chavez said.
Nick says, after 13 years of being with the company, he has enjoyed working with extended family as well as his father, but it is great to have his sister by his side.
“I always assumed my sister and my brother would join the business. For a while, it was just me, and I thought it would stay that way. I’m really glad we have a sibling working with us now. It’s been great,” Nick Chavez said.
Amanda Chavez says, even though she was familiar with the business, it was still a little bit scary because she did not know what to expect—especially since she was walking into what is a little bit of a male-dominated type of work.
“For me it’s been even better than I expected it to be. It’s been great working with Nick and my dad every day. Our personalities mesh well together, and we aren’t afraid to push back,” Amanda Chavez said.
Dan Chavez says watching his children work together reminds him of what it was like when his brother and he were working with his father.
“These guys will have a mindset that they want to do it their way, and it comes back to me. Sometimes they tell me something I don’t want to hear, but I remember doing that to my dad,” Dan Chavez said.
ONE COMMON GOAL
Dan Chavez says the beauty of a family business is everyone pushing and working toward a common goal. He sees an energy level in Nick and Amanda to not just to be content with the old way, but to push for putting their own stamp on things.
“It’s interesting to me, being in the middle of this. I remember pushing my dad for new ways and better ways, changing some of the things he started with. Now, I’m on the other side of that,” Dan Chavez said.
Though Nick and Amanda are working to create a lasting future for Chavez Restoration and Cleaning, they recognize they are just the next piece in the puzzle. They understand the company would not be the success it is today without very dedicated and long-term employees, including those willing to be on emergency call so they can provide services 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
“We realize we are just carrying on a legacy that has been built by many family members and employees who have put blood, sweat and tears in to keep the business where it is today,” Amanda Chavez said.