Universal Sweeping Service Provides Three Sweeping Companies in One
In 1958, there wasn't a parking lot sweeping industry in the U.S. That's where Leonard Vella came in. Today, insiders know Vella as one of the pioneers who invented much about sweeping parking areas -- including what is now the MASCO line of sweepers.
by Ranger Kidwell-Ross
Every industry has only a few bona fide pioneers. For the U.S. contract sweeping industry, one of those is Leonard Vella. He started sweeping parking lots while going to college. Leonard sold businesses on the service of cleaning their parking lots by day, swept by night on a ride-on Wayne machine not designed for sweeping a parking lot, and found time to study and sleep somewhere in between.
Once Leonard realized he could make a go of pavement maintenance, he realized he needed a machine that would both do the job better and get him out of the elements. Since there was nothing of that sort available, the inventive Vella set out to develop one. The end result was what ultimately became today's MASCO line of sweepers. Quite a double legacy when it comes to the power sweeping industry, wouldn't you say?!
Although Leonard still keeps his hand in his daughter and son, Gina and Joe, bought him out several years ago. Our interview for this feature article was with Gina, who is now president of Universal Sweeping Services, Inc.
The audio interview, which was held by phone on the day before Halloween, showcases how capable Ms. Vella is in her own right. Running on a tight deadline, we caught up with Gina while she had her four- and seven-year-olds in tow. Interspersed with our interview 'Gina the Mom' also kept track of her two 3rd generation Vellas, who she had taken trick-or-treating at a downtown, business-sponsored event.
"Back in the day, they called Dad 'the grandfather of the industry,'" Gina related. "Once he refined the business and realized there was a market -- but there wasn't an efficient sweeper to do the job other than a ride-on where he was exposed to the elements -- he set out to develop a sweeper. Dad was the founder, with a couple other partners, of MASCO Sweepers."
A few years ago Gina and Joe bought out Leonard and have made moves to take the firm to yet another level. For one, they expanded Universal to provide a number of additional services in addition to sweeping, including pressure washing, day portering and a variety of other property maintenance services.
The duo have also branched out into both construction and street sweeping, which they run as separate companies called, respectively, Statewide Construction Sweeping and Contract Sweeping Services. With offices in San Jose and Stockton, the combined companies now offers sweeping services throughout the state of California.
In the 17-minute interview with Gina Vella, you'll receive a wealth of advice on running a sweeping operation. Topics covered include survival in a recession, branching out from parking lot sweeping to street and construction sweeping, employee management and the use of independent contractors as part of a business model.
The interview makes it clear that Leonard Vella's company is in good hands as we move into the 21st century. Gina strikes a positive tone throughout, and offers a winning combination of hard-nosed business acumen with caring and compassion for clients and vendors alike.
Even in the midst of an economic downturn in a state that's very hard hit by it, Gina is clearly making the company moves best designed to minimize how her company is affected by it all. "History shows," she advises, "that the companies that best come through an economic slowdown are the ones that are prepared for the upswing when it occurs." Sounds like good advice for us all.
Note: The following audio interview with Gina Vella, which is approximately 17 minutes in length, will play without downloading any files onto your computer. If you hear the interview at 'chipmunk speed,' you will need to download the latest version of Adobe's free Flash player.
If you have questions or comments about this interview, please, let us know and we can add it in as an addendum to this article.
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