When Alpine Village Commercial Laundry in Whitefish shut down this summer, Glacier Hospitality owner Andrea Malchi didn’t have anywhere to bring the dirty linen she and her staff strip from vacation rentals during the busy tourism season.
After a 10-hour day of cleaning rentals, commercial properties and residential homes, Malchi went home at night and laundered her clients’ sheets for an extra four-to-eight hours, sometimes seven days a week.
“One of the biggest struggles in the industry is where to take our laundry,” Malchi said. “We take out all of the dirty sheets and towels and you don’t have time to sit there and do all of the laundry.”
In addition to her cleaning business, Malchi recently opened Glacier Wash and Fold, a drop-off laundry service in Whitefish with six commercial washing machines that cater to cleaning companies’ needs.
“I just really wanted to do this and fill that need for other cleaners and property management companies,” Malchi said. “We’re just so tired. The tourism is so much and this service is a need.”
Formerly in the hair styling industry, Malchi sold her hair salon in Kalispell in 2016 when she lost her passion for it and a former client mentioned she needed cleaners for her vacation rental properties. She had been waiting for an opportunity to change careers and she said cleaning properties fell into her lap. Her business spiraled from there.
Five years later, Malchi juggles two branches in Whitefish and Bozeman as well as 20 employees who clean residential homes and commercial properties along with a high demand for vacation rentals during the tourist season. Glacier Hospitality also offers property management and design services.
But the high demand for vacation rental cleaning, where the workload peaks on long weekends, during ski season and the summer months, poses challenges for staffing even though Malchi has a full crew of employees.
Right now during the shoulder season, Malchi is overstaffed for the first time; however, she says once tourism picks up again, it’s difficult to coordinate employee schedules due to a lack of childcare, people calling in for powder days and the irregular workload.
On the flipside, the unconventional hours also attract a wide demographic of employees that Malchi did not expect.
“I’ve had quite a few employees come from customer service and restaurant jobs just for a season who say they need a break,” Malchi said. “This is seasonal so it works out perfect to step back and recharge. A lot of them say they are ready to go back into their passion after a season.”
Many of her employees already have full-time jobs and some work for Glacier Hospitality as a side gig or they just want a change of scenery.
Lack of childcare has been a struggle for some of her employees, but she tries to work with their schedule by offering shifts from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., giving them time to drop off and pick up their kids from school. She also has evening and weekend shifts available.
Since staffing is a major issue in the Flathead’s cleaning industry, Malchi says some other cleaning services will ask to borrow her employees for the day if they are short staffed. To mitigate these challenges, she wants to create a list of substitute employees who are already trained that she can call if a scheduled staff member can’t come in.
“It’s very difficult,” Malchi said. “That’s the stress that I would like to help alleviate for myself and other companies.”
Malchi wants to continue providing a flexible workplace for staff in the valley while employing a wide variety of backgrounds.
“My hope here is just to be able to pay really well and provide another service for locals that are struggling to keep up with the high demand of tourism,” Malchi said.
For more information, visit www.glacierhospitalitymt.com.