By Alex Gallagher
Connie and Rick Smith have spent more than 20 years scrubbing Scottsdale’s swankiest homes, and now Rick has penned a book about their experiences.
“Cleaning Homes for the Rich and Famous in Scottsdale, Arizona” hit shelves last year, and though Rick penned it, he underscores that this is Connie’s story.
“Connie worked in the medical industry and in furniture sales in our home state of Montana, but her passion was cleaning and keeping things clean,” Rick recalls.
“She began her own one-person cleaning service in Billings in 1998, and when we moved to Arizona in 2001, Connie wanted to continue in cleaning.”
Though a local cleaning service in Scottsdale hired Connie, she decided to start her own business within a few months after seeing the company’s high prices.
Happy Trails House Cleaning was a month old when Connie realized she needed an extra set of hands. Her plan was to hire a full-time employee, but Rick volunteered for the gig.
“Together we built the business but Connie ran it. She handled everything, and I showed up to clean,” Rick says. “I always told customers that Connie was management and I was labor.”
From there, the husband-and-wife team sent out 10,000 mailers to North Scottsdale homes. Rick says that was the last time Happy Trails Cleaning adcertised.
The business grew organically through word of mouth.
At their peak, the Smiths were cleaning as many as three homes a day; these were not typical humble abodes either.
“Most of the wealthy homes were spacious with high ceilings and were beautifully appointed with lots of natural stone floors and countertops, multiple bathrooms, guest wings, large, beautiful yards and deluxe patios,” Rick says. “Some homes had movie theaters, gyms, pools, putting greens, guest casitas and a four-car garage.”
However, there was one home that stood out.
“We cleaned a home that was a two-story 8,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style home with a resort-like feel to it,” Rick says. “(It had) huge rooms; a beautiful entryway; a huge his-and-her master bath complex; and fabulous outdoor facilities, including a fireplace, a big screen TV, a swimming pool, a barbecue grill and lots of patio furniture.”
The duo also cleaned the homes of some famous folks and people who had ties to fame.
“Our customers were more rich than famous, but there were a few with names people might know,” Rick says. “We cleaned for Michael and Kristin Owens. Michael is the son of country music legend Buck Owens and was general manager of KNIX radio in Phoenix for years before the station was sold.
“We also served professional golfer Pat Perez, Jim Fassel — the New York Giants head coach in the 2001 Super Bowl — and we cleaned, for a brief time, for the in-laws of Billy Bean — the baseball manager for the Oakland A’s who was the subject of the well-known movie ‘Moneyball.’”
They’ve also cleaned for fast-food restaurant and automobile dealership owners, a Top Gun fighter pilot, a chief executive officer of a medical testing company, and the operations manager of a national pet store chain.
With decades of dust, dirt and cleaning chemicals under his nails, Rick wanted to share their story.
“I enjoy writing, and after 20 years of cleaning, it was impossible for me not to see the potential entertainment value in some of our cleaning experiences,” he says.
He also felt it could be a compelling tale for the elder generation.
“In addition, I believed there could be value in sharing what Connie and I did with our lives between 50 and 70 years of age,” Rick says.
“Perhaps there’s an element of hope in our tale. We followed an uncertain path with blind faith and in the process learned a lot about happiness.”
“Cleaning Homes for the Rich and Famous in Scottsdale, Arizona” has received rave reviews, according to Rick.
“People are surprised by the book and find it different from what they were expecting,” he says. “There are seven Amazon revues and they all have offered supportive comments about what they have read.”
“Cleaning Homes for the Rich and Famous in Scottsdale, Arizona”
Available on Amazon, Apple Books and Google Books