Thriving Albuquerque family business hopes to never see its clients

Alex Borgeson says disaster-restoration is a unique business. Unique for many reasons, but especially because she and her family hope not to have to see their clients.

“I feel most people think that a disaster is something that might never happen to them, but as a result there tends to be a lack of preparedness,” said Borgeson, who previously worked in health care and at Accion before joining Rockefeller’s Cleaning & Restoration Co. as its manager of business development last year.

She is the daughter of Larry and Kelly Borgeson and the sister of Cole Borgeson — who helped launch the business’s sister-company, Rockefeller’s Construction Inc. Business First asked her about the family business, which employs 60 people and has been in operation since 1979.

The Borgeson family smiling

People don’t pay much attention to Rockefeller’s until there’s an emergency?

Unfortunately, you’re absolutely correct. One of the best things [a business] can do, aside from being familiar with its insurance and scope of coverage, is to establish a relationship with a local disaster-restoration company. That way when your pipes burst at 3 a.m., you know who to call and we can get out to help you right away.

Give us a sense of the range of your clients.

Our commercial clients span almost every industry and like many of our restoration relationships, we’ve held some of these commercial connections since our inception. Some of our longest-standing commercial partnerships include the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque Public Schools, the city of Albuquerque and [Presbyterian Healthcare Services]. Albuquerque has grown so much since 1979 and the business climate has significantly changed in our industry in the past 10 years. As a result, many franchises have come to town to see how they will do here.

What are some misconceptions about the business?

I think most people don’t really understand what it takes to restore a property, even after just a small fire or flood. Or with something more hazardous like a home that’s been used as a meth lab. The proper cleaning practices are extremely detailed and sensitive, and there is an enormous amount of training and procedures that have to be understood before stepping onto a project. We have three warehouses filled with equipment, a main office of over 20,000 square feet and over 20 vehicles to help support this work.

We’ve handled some of the largest losses in the state and we’ve been the behind-the-scenes cleanup crew for some of the more well-known headlines over the years. Projects include work after the Los Alamos fires, the Marriott hotel murders, the UNM Zimmerman Library flood and the Romano’s Macaroni Grill fire. Our work spans a huge range, from hospitals to Native American reservations, to Georgia O’Keeffe’s home, high-profile residents, and we even restored the El Rey Theater as a community service back in 2008. There are so many different environments we are asked to handle, from helping hoarders, to trauma scene cleanup and vehicle decontamination, sewage, vandalism and animal waste, including hantavirus.

Tell us about your parents and how the business came together.

The story of Rockefeller’s is really the story of my mom and dad. They met when my mom was attending Carnegie Mellon University and my dad was working for a general contractor, having just arrived back from serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam. They moved and enrolled at UNM, where they eventually earned master’s degrees in fine arts. They started the business as a way to pay for their education. Soon after starting Rockefeller’s, they were surprised by the success and fulfilment the business brought them. The business would have never made it without some of our first clients taking a leap of faith and giving Rockefeller’s a chance. Clients such as Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Co. (nowQwest), FedEx and Hanness Parnegg with Hertzmark-Parnegg Realty. Hanness contracted Rockefeller’s to do the maintenance of all the Presbyterian-owned properties.