It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. Truth be told, the folks at Chimney Sweeps, Inc. want to do it — clean your chimney, that is, and according to Julian Margo, the lead contractor in this established family business, the job's not as dirty as you may think.
"The sweep does not go down into the chimney to clean it," Margo emphasized. "If the sweep went into the chimney we'd never see him again. They're not designed for a human being to go down inside. When you see people in 'Mary Poppins' jumping in and sliding out, that's definitely not the case."
So get those images of Dick Van Dyke, covered from head to toe in soot, as Bert the chimney sweep out of your head. "It is a cliché," said Margo with a chuckle. "We get it a lot and we have to embrace it. There's definitely no fighting it."
Chimney Sweeps, Inc. was founded in 1985 by master sweep Steven Carter, and today his enterprising company includes his wife Valerie, sister Georgia and two sons, Ariel and Julian. The half-dozen sweeps in the field, who show up at your home in traditional English top hats and tails, by the way, do more than clean chimneys. They are licensed contractors who do inspections and make repairs as well.
About now you may be thinking "This is San Diego, where it's 70 degrees year-round. Who uses their chimney, even if they have a chimney?"
Margo explained: "A large majority of the clients we service never use their chimney. The idea that we've always promoted is that your chimney is part of your home, and it gets neglected. People don't even think about it.
"The reason that we do this in San Diego so much is because people care about protecting their investment. If they use their chimney they want to keep it safe. If they don't, they want to keep it in good condition because it's just like the driveway or the roof, one of those things in a home that should be looked at regularly."
As an analogy, "Let's say you buy a brand-new BMW in 1999. You park it on the side of the road and you don't touch it for 20 years. Then you decide to hop in and get out on the freeway. That car isn't necessarily staying in good condition."
The cost of a Chimney Sweeps, Inc. inspection hasn't gone up much over the years. It was $39 in 1987, Margo said, and $49 today. A cleaning goes for $99, in which case the inspection fee is waived.
The company's customer base numbers over 30,000, with clients from South Bay to North County. "We are a very popular bunch in our top hats," Margo said. "Very much in demand." No more so than at this time of year. Margo said that early fall is among the sweeps' busiest times.
• Chimney Sweeps, Inc., 10036 Maine Ave., Lakeside. (619) 593-4020. chimneysweepsinc.com
— The Business Spotlight features commercial enterprises that support the La Jolla Light.