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Kleenco, Four Generations a Family Company!
Commercial janitorial firms were Kleenco's initial customers, but that would soon change. On a road trip to Portland, Bob stopped in a little town called Kelso. There, while getting a cup of coffee at a diner, he saw a sign that read: ‘A-1 Vacuum’. And inspiration hit.
“I'll bet they could sell cleaning products,” he said to himself.
He paid for his coffee and walked across the street. Inside A-1 Vacuum, he met and introduced himself to Wayne and Paula Modin and thus charted an entirely new trajectory for his company. Over the years, Bob would meet and get know hundreds of other small-business owners, many who still sell Kleenco products to this day.
In the early 2000’s, Bob turned the presidency of Kleenco over to his son, Dale. But he never stepped away from business. It was only in 2014 that Bob started to slowly turn some of his favorite clients over to Gay, whom he fondly referred to as his favorite daughter (also his only daughter).
Bob truly loved cleaning, gardening and helping others. He was always ready to dispense some sound advice to somebody just getting started in the janitorial business. And he was always ready to give encouragement to friends, neighbors, and people he didn’t even know by sharing God’s word. He is survived by five of his children, and by a host of grand-children and great-grandchildren. His great wit and ready smile will be missed by all.
Pictured to left the house where Bob was raised. "Silbaugh House W.H." Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on September 8, 1983 Reference number 83002302
Devoted to his family and his faith, throughout his life Bob motivated and inspired people. Here’s a bit of his story.
Bob was born and raised in Jerome, Idaho. He was born in a converted chicken coop and raised in a house constructed on stones dug up from the surrounding field. His father was at that time a hired hand, but some nearby uncles had farms of their own and young Bob sometimes helped out, baling hay and doing repairs. After a few jaunts around the Pacific Northwest and other neighboring states, Bob went back to Idaho and met the love of his life, Burma Marie. They married in 1952 and, after relocating to Southern California, began a family.
As a means to support that family, Bob quickly picked up the janitorial business, learning to run buffers, wash windows, clean rugs and sell products. Bob needed to work hard. The family was growing rapidly, and in a few short years there would be five boys and a girl. At that point, Bob and Burma pulled up their stakes and bundled the whole family up north, settling in Bellevue, Washington, just outside of Seattle.
In Bellevue, Bob continued to grow his knowledge of cleaning products and methods. Eventually, he was able to distribute this knowledge, establishing cleaning programs for housekeeping departments and, along with some of his older, high-school-aged sons, starting a side-business called Jet City Janitorial. That small janitorial company eventually grew into a large commercial janitorial operation. Perhaps speculating that it would soon outgrow the 'Jet City', Bob decided to give it a new, stronger brand and renamed it Kleenco.
As Bob continued to write sales and cleaning programs for clients around the country and operate his own janitorial business, he gained a crystal-clear knowledge of the problems that confronted cleaning professionals. And the number one problem? The slow, ineffective and expensive chemicals in the janitor's supply closet. So, with his sons, Bob set out to develop his own. Slowly, Kleenco began to move out of the janitorial business and into the manufacturing business.