For nearly three decades, Blue Ribbon Cleaning Company, Inc. has been the premier source of commercial janitorial services in Marion County. Beginning as a small venture, Bernardine and Jay Thomas steadily grew the company to the 65-employee, multi-faceted operation it is today: Blue Ribbon Cleaning, Discount Janitorial & Paper Supply, and Blue Ribbon Coffee &Tea. Blue Ribbon has maintained a standard of excellence by adhering to the basic principles that have brought success since the company’s founding: quality, delivered consistently.
And Blue Ribbon truly is a family-run business. Jay Thomas remains active in the company, serving as vice president. Having the most extensive experience, his contribution has been vital to the healthy growth of the company over the years. Jay not only handles special events and projects, but he also trains floor crews and is the go-to person when customers have questions about specialized cleaning products. He sets a high bar with his tireless work ethic and leads by example with his integrity and commitment to customer service.
The person responsible for the smooth operation of the company is his son, Terry Thomas. As general manager of sales and operations, Terry oversees all three divisions of the Blue Ribbon family of companies.
“My job description can be summed up in one sentence: I do whatever needs to be done,” he says with a smile. While some wonder at how the three divisions of Blue Ribbon came to be under one umbrella, to Terry, it makes perfect sense, as each branch complements the others.
“The customers that need their facility cleaned usually need paper goods and cleaning products. Similarly, the offices we clean often use a coffee service, which is why we decided to add that component to our product line,” he explains, adding that he is very pleased with the outcome of the coffee service addition.
“We’ve received an enthusiastic response,” he says with pride.
That newest division, Blue Ribbon Coffee & Tea, is the happy coincidence of timing and opportunity. Jimmy Childress, a long-time business fixture in Marion County, joined the Blue Ribbon team in August of this past year. Jimmy owned a successful coffee service for a decade and has worked in sales most of his career. Terry and Jimmy got to know each other working on various local community projects. With his knowledge of the coffee business and the Ocala business community, Terry feels that Jimmy has been a welcome addition.
“With a variety of products, Blue Ribbon Coffee can meet the needs of any office,” explains Jimmy. “People know the Blue Ribbon name. They know we have been here a long time and that we take pride in our ties to the area.”
Senior Account Manager David Huffman echoes those same sentiments. Another long-time resident of the area, he likes the deep roots that anchor Blue Ribbon to Marion County.
“It’s great to be able to offer potential customers quality products and services and also give them the security that comes from doing business with a company that’s been here for nearly 30 years,” he says.
Terry’s wife, Esperanza Casteneda, serves as Blue Ribbon’s president. She brings her 25 years of small business ownership to the mix. With service, retail and human relations experience, she finds herself wearing several hats. She makes sure safety and training stay up to date and oversees employee management. As part of the continuing effort to maintain quality and efficiency, this year, Blue Ribbon implemented a computer-based quality assurance program. Additionally, they use the highest industry criteria so that the company meets or exceeds those standards at every job.
“When we bought the company, we knew that we wanted to expand our customer base while maintaining the fine reputation that Jay, my father-in-law, had worked so hard to establish,” explains Esperanza. “Our entire management team has done an amazing job balancing all of that,” she says.
Terry enthusiastically shares her view.
“We have great people working with us,” he says. “Our challenge moving forward is managing growth while simultaneously maintaining the family environment that we all value.” He notes that roughly half of the employees, both office and custodial, have been with Blue Ribbon for 10 years or longer. Shirley Mancinelli has been the office manager for 13 years, while Nina Dufresne runs the front office, and her husband, Danny, runs the delivery routes. Those familiar faces bring a sense of comfort to Blue Ribbon’s clients.
“Our clients know them, and more importantly, they know our clients. They help us maintain the type of individualized customer service that sets us apart,” says Terry.
Beyond the outstanding service and quality products, Terry feels there is another important component to their success.
“We are truly a homegrown family business, and our customers know that. We invest in the community, financially and emotionally. In turn, the community has invested in us,” he says, noting that the local ties are what make Blue Ribbon stand apart from their competitors.
Blue Ribbon Cleaning Company Inc.
4320 SE 53rd Ave., Ocala
6650 S Pine Ave., Ocala