In 1947 Hyman Wasserman and Al Benton came to Rochester from New York City and started the American Window Cleaning Company. A year later they bought into Rochester Window Cleaning Company, owned by Joseph Wysh, which had been established in 1899 as the National Window Cleaning Co. These two companies merged in 1910. Hyman's specialty was cleaning ALL windows — regardless of height. He repeatedly backed up the company claim that "We wash windows clean and STREAKLESS day or night, in bitter winter, blizzards or melting summer heat." The D & C once photographed Hyman washing windows in the pre-dawn!!!
Joe Wysh, Al Benton &
Hyman Wasserman in
front of the RWC offices
in the early 1950s
Joe Wysh died in 1957. Hyman (nick-named Hy) and Al bought the remaining shares from Mrs. Wysh, and in 1969 Hy became the sole owner when he bought out Al Benton who wished to return to the “big city” of New York.
Hy’s sons, Rob, Steve and Marc, had been his helpers since they were big enough to carry buckets. Hy thought they might eventually represent the second Wasserman generation in the business. It happened – but prematurely when Hy was fatally stricken with cancer in the spring of 1973 and directed operations from his hospital bed.
A photograph of the original
ledger for American Window
Cleaning. This dates back to
June 4, 1948 and lists
successful local companies such
as Eastman Kodak, McCurdy’s,
H.H. Sullivan & J.H. Green
Electric Co. as some of the
many regular customers.
“My husband kept everything in his head,” recalls wife Pauline. “Nothing was written down. We had to document everything – which jobs were twice a week, which ones were once a month, how people like their windows done. If a job wasn’t finished, he knew which window wasn’t done! Three weeks later, he would send someone to do it. He kept track of 35 employees in his head. He knew when to bill each job. It was a nightmare to try and take the reins.” But Pauline and been the company secretary long enough to handle the assignment and not single account suffered!
Operation of the business fell to his wife, oldest son Robert (who has since left the business to start his own firm, The Maids of Southeast Rochester), and 20 year old Steve. Marc was still in high school.
Steve has been cleaning windows since the age of 8. He was so young he needed two hands to carry the bucket and his legs and feet always got wet from the water sloshing over. Marc has been cleaning windows since the age of 13, when he would go out and work weekends with his father. After the death of his father, Marc, then a 16 year old high school sophomore, would get up at 5 am, do part of a route before school, during his lunch break, and finish the route after school was over.
Marc and Steve
The bus iness was originally located on Stone Street, and then moved to Mortimer Street. In the mid 60’s the business was moved to the Cox building at the corner of Mortimer and St. Paul Street, and in 1979 moved again to 37 N Clinton Avenue. After an unfortunate fire, the company moved back to the Cox building. Needing more room and space, the company moved to its present location in 1990.
Today, everything is documented and the system is computerized. But it took 30 years to arrive at its present level of success. “We were afraid to grow too fast because so many businesses fail when they do,” explains Marc. “Without a formal plan in place, we shot from the hip a lot and had to go into debt to a point.”
The W asserman’s would urge family businesses to put a plan in place before it is needed to ensure survival in a competitive marketplace.