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When Janet Fahar, 70, went into the house cleaning business 25 years ago, she did so without cell phones, computers, or any industry knowledge whatsoever.

“I was working as an administrative assistant with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and saw no opportunity for advancement,” she said. “So I bought a Molly Maid franchise and went into the maid business.”

She opened Molly Maid of Western Fairfax County in 1987 with one employee and cleaned homes right alongside that worker. As the business grew, she began hiring more employees and began taking on more administrative duties.

“We had no computers and I did all our accounting and scheduling by hand on paper,” she said.

“We also had no cell phones then, so I developed a code by which I called employees at the homes they were working in and would let it ring twice. That was their cue to call me back. Later, we got beepers and eventually everyone had cell phones.”

Today, Fahar’s cleaning franchise has 25 employees, cleans more than 230 homes per week and is a million-dollar company.

“We have come a long, long way in 25 years,” she said.

Fahar’s son Steve now is a co-owner, starting off with the company when he was in seventh grade.

“I remember spending my spring breaks cleaning houses,” he said.

Steve Fahar eventually received a marketing degree from George Mason University and began a career in the computer field, but eventually came back to his cleaning roots.

“I worked at several companies that wound up becoming victims of the dot-com bust in the late 1990s,” he said. “In 2001, I was out of work and came in to help my mom and I never left.”

“Steve’s background in information technology has really helped keep us up to date technologically,” said Janet Fahar. “All our computer systems are networked and Steve makes sure we are always up to date with the latest communication and marketing technologies.”

According to Steve Fahar, the cleaning business is not as dull as many might think.

“We hear interesting stories from our employees every day,” he said. “For example, I have heard tales about adult photo sessions being performed in homes when our cleaners got there. We have also heard about people who neglected to tell us that they kept python snakes in their basements.”

Steve Fahar said Molly Maid of Western Fairfax also gets many of the same types of calls from homeowners as he suspects most cleaning companies do.

“I once got a call from a homeowner who said their engagement ring was missing after one of our cleaning people had been at their home, only to call back four months later to apologize after it was discovered behind a stove in their kitchen while they were remodeling it,” he said.

Fahar said the company is bonded and insured and has many security protocols in place, but that there once was an incident in which someone tried to take advantage of that fact.

“I once got a call from a guy who said one of our employees broke his stereo. I offered to replace it so I asked for the make and model. It was a $30 Radio Shack cassette player, so I said, ‘Go get another one and send me the bill.’ The guy sent me a bill for a brand new Bose stereo that cost $2,700. I called him and he said, ‘Oh, I upgraded. You are insured so I didn’t think it was a problem.’”

As for the company’s next 25 years, the Fahars say they have it covered.

“We continue to expand our business and grow every day,” said Janet Fahar. “We may even go into our third generation of ownership.”

“My 5-year-old son has told me that one day he wants to be a worker here,” said Steve Fahar.

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com