Monday, 2 April 2012

Telluride’s Transparent Cleanliness

Mark Plantz, owner of Mark’s Window Washing, has been keeping Telluride’s windows clean for 16 years. Click to enlarge.

Transparent cleanliness: It’s the day after a particularly heinous dust storm, and the evidence is everywhere. Cars, benches and windows all sport a fresh brown coat. A dusty truck rumbles down Colorado Avenue, pausing as its driver sees a group of rivals across the street. The window rolls down and a series of gang signs flash back and forth between the driver and his opposing posse.

The truck’s driver has thrust both arms out the window, shaping the fingers of one hand into an M and the other into a W, for Mark’s Window Washing. Once the laughter dies down, they all get down to business, and main street’s windows slowly morph from translucent, dusty messes into gleaming transparencies.

“I’m always stoked when I see dust on the horizon,” said Mark Plantz, who has owned Mark’s Window Washing for the past 16 years, always sporting the motto “Safe. Reliable. Courteous.” “I do emergency window washing, too. I’ll put a red light on the truck and rush to your house.”

Plantz said he gets most of his business by word of mouth, but his long running ad in the Daily Planet has helped, too. “It’s turning into an icon, like Betty Crocker,” he said. “If you look at the ad, I haven’t aged in 20 years.”

Paul Pierce of Mark's Window Washing rappels down to buff the skylights.
Plantz used to get most of his business at the Last Dollar Saloon and the now-defunct Swede-Finn Bar, coming home from nights’ revelry with names and numbers scrawled on his palm. Nowadays, most people in town know who he is. In fact, a handful have actually worked for him over the years.

“I usually have anywhere from four to seven guys working for me at any given time, but I tallied it up, and more than 100 have claimed the honor at one time or another,” he said. “I always see ‘em walking down the street and say we say hi. I pay ‘em a decent wage and treat ‘em right, so I don’t have anyone going around town saying I was a lame boss.”

According to Plantz’s experience, washing windows is one of those trades most people wouldn’t notice unless it went away. Main street shopkeepers — eager to show off their wares as clearly as possible — are the most obvious beneficiaries of the service he provides. But new homes, coated in construction grime but ready for sale, are also a big deal.

“Sometimes it can take months or even years to build a house,” he explained. “The windows can get pretty dirty, so we get out there and clean ‘em up so that they’re ready for sale.”

Asked what they want to be when they grow up, most children opt for iconic professions such as astronaut, firefighter or doctor. Plantz said that his choice to wash windows for a living boiled down to finding a way to become part of Telluride’s community fabric. He found a niche that needed to be filled, and went for it.

“I was just a slope dope and needed a job like everyone else,” he said, grinning. “After I learned the skill from Jerry Robertson, I got busier and busier. I’d like to put two kids through college, so if you need your windows washed, I’m safe, reliable, courteous.”

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