How this couple started a cleaning business that supports some of San Francisco’s favorite restaurants

As the sun pours down 18th Street in the Mission district, it’s not uncommon to see Rafael Garcia squeezing grapefruits in the kitchen of Tartine Bakery, and, as the moon rises that evening, he It’s not uncommon to see him bring a pressure washer to one of the more than a dozen restaurants in town. He is recognizable by his iconic look: diamond earrings on either side of his chinstrap beard, a smile so cheerful it makes you squint. But few regular customers, or even co-workers, realize Garcia has a robust cleaning business that works primarily with restaurants in San Francisco and Oakland. His client list, now at 14, includes some of the busiest and best restaurants in the Bay Area: Frances, Octavia, Wahpepah’s Kitchen, Understory and Reem’s.

Rafael Garcia, who works as an assistant general manager at Tartine, began his tenure at the Guerrero Street bakery after working as a janitor at a sausage company in San Francisco. It was 2011, and while the cleaning job was fun, he wanted to learn new skills. He started working in front of the house at the bakery, filling cups and handing out croissants. “At that time, my English wasn’t so good,” says Garcia. “I had to learn to communicate with other people outside of Spanish.”

Garcia is as standard a sight at the Tartine Bakery as the country bread itself.
Paolo Bicchieri

During his six years working at Tartine, his wife Rosa Lopez was acquiring skills in residential cleaning. It was her idea to start Lopez Cleaning Services in 2017 when she decided to start her own house cleaning business. Tartine was looking for a new cleaning contract at the time, and he offered to start there. “Five or six months later, they noticed it looked good,” Garcia says. “So they invited me to clean the Manufacture when it opened.” In no time he was in charge of both businesses, the kitchen at the police station and the Tartine store on 9th Avenue when it opened – not to mention the gigs at customers’ homes that his partner, in life and in business, also took on. .

If there’s a classic example of the power of word of mouth, it’s Garcia and Lopez Cleaning Services. Before long, he landed contracts at Smallworks, a framing store, and Mr. Muggle’s, a pet sitting service, both of which are in the same Mission District midfield as Tartine – geographically and socially. . When Nick Beitcher, owner of Midnite Bagel, went out alone, he asked Garcia to clean up his commissary space in the Dogpatch. Lopez Cleaning Services will also handle the new retail location at Inner Sunset.

“Rafa was the guy,” Beitcher says. “He knew every nook and cranny of the [Tartine] space and could do anything – gear that needed fixing, recipes that needed to be translated into Spanish, he was just the guy. He watched Garcia go from a full shift at the bakery to a cleaning job that wouldn’t finish until three a.m., and he says he’s blown away by Garcia’s work ethic. “He’s an incredibly hard worker,” Beitcher says. “There’s no doubt he’s going to do what he says he’s going to do.” Garcia is sheepish, but acknowledges that it’s those kinds of personal opinions that have allowed his business to thrive.

A man and a woman.

Garcia and his wife Rosa Lopez.
Raphael Garcia

A man cleans a hallway.

Garcia is considered the resident master of all gear, gear, and repair.
Raphael Garcia

The work adds up. Garcia says he and his wife love it – the hustle and bustle – and really love having clients and clients from his business and his work at Tartine. Organizing your life, however, and feeling a sense of control is a primary motivator. “We wanted to have our own time, our own schedule, and also for sure make more money,” says Garcia. “To be free. Not to live from month to month.

It was a difficult period for Tartine. But not for Garcia, although he lost about 40% of his customers in the first year of the pandemic. The cleaning company now has two rotating employees, and it has just added carpet cleaning and moving services to its offerings. There is no limit in sight, he says. “Me and my wife, we’re growing up together,” Garcia says. “I can’t know, but I want to make everyone happy. If you have a new opportunity, you must seize it.

Comments are closed.