Chuck Bennet runs a small cleaning "company" called "Maid Men." I hesitate to call it a company because its "founder" himself is hesitant about it too. The Manhattan-born, Westchester-bred 31-year-old worked at the Hotel Elysee in Midtown, where "Maid Men" gets its name. The hotel was mentioned in an episode, and a friend of Bennet's came up with the name on the fly. Bennet quit that job and started getting offers to clean friends' apartments, and it eventually developed into other people's condos. Bennet and I met up in McCarren Park and talked his love for cleaning, his own personal messiness, changes in Brooklyn, and trade secrets.
It seems like a strange question to ask, but how did you get into cleaning?
I was working at a hotel, and I had to work weekends, every single weekend, and I thought, "You know, why don't I just be my own boss? Why don't I just work for myself?" Then I just started cleaning my friends' apartments, and I was doing it a lot, and I saved up some money, and I thought: "I could make this my 9-5." Except maybe more of a 1-5.
On the one hand you seem like just a dude in the world, but on the other, "Maid Men" seems like that stereotypically Brooklyn "start-up."
I'm not really like an entrepreneur, I don't have that kind of drive like a lot of people do, like they're kind of relentless with it. It's just what I do.
How did you come up with the name? Was the hotel featured on the show?
Well, it wasn't on the show, but a scene took place there. The hotel I worked at is right on Madison Ave., and I think my friend came up with the name. It was just kind of a coincidence. It was just a catchy name. Even if you don't want your house cleaned, you can still look at it and get a kick out of it.
How are you promoting yourself?
Right now I'm just doing word of mouth, and I've only been doing this since the summer. On my Facebook I had a picture of me in a maid's uniform and that got some attention, and I put some fliers up in the neighborhood. I should have more, but I've been kind of lazy about it. But I have a lot of business already as it is, and I'm not trying to create a big business or a brand or anything.
What do you find enjoyable about cleaning?
I just like doing it. My brain feels organized if something else is organized. And I'm a very messy person myself, in my own life, but I find I'm really good at cleaning other people's stuff. And when I was cleaning rooms at the hotel, I just got really good at it.
So it kind of unclutters your mind, you know, because it's so mindless?
Well, you don't want to mess up someone's apartment, but I'm not working at the United Nations. It's pretty simple work, and it gives me more time to do what I like to do.
Yeah, so you're a rapper?
I'm more of a beatmaker slash producer. I was into it during my early 20's, and I did some records for some people and fell out of it, but in the last couple of years I've been getting back into it. I'm pretty modest about it. Nobody wants to hear about a 30-year-old white rapper. And I try not to take myself too seriously.
Yeah, when I'd heard about you I was thinking about my own childhood when my family had a maid, who was an illegal immigrant, and I was the only one who sort of felt uncomfortable about what I would later learn was this large economic disparity. And I was thinking about the economic disparity here in Brooklyn, where it's often the very successful and rich vs. the young, hungry creative person. And you're here in Greenpoint, which has a lot of new buildings coming up all the time. Do you ever think about that when you're cleaning an apartment?
It's hard not to think about how hard some people work when you see these new expensive condos. And I don't have any resentment towards those people who live in these condos. Chances are they work very hard, and they're giving me work. There are a lot of new opportunities in this neighborhood, for better and for worse, and you've got to take advantage of that. It's not like a pride thing for me. Someone needs to do it, and I'm filling a void.
I worked a desk job for a couple of years, and I couldn't stand it. I would look at a computer all day. It was just not my type of thing.
Do you ever find weird stuff?
In the hotel you'd find all sorts of weird stuff that was left behind, but I don't really find any of that kind of stuff in these apartments. But what's funny is that most of my clients are already pretty clean themselves, but they take me on because I'm a deep cleaner. Like, I'll dust, but that's not my specialty. I had a client that was moving out of his apartment that he'd lived in for like ten years, and he wanted a bit of his deposit back, so I had to deep clean the whole thing. And he was a clean guy, but if you've lived in a place for that long stuff just accumulates.
But I kind of enjoy how dirty a place is. The dirtier the place is, the more I'm into it. People always apologize, but I'm always like, "No, you don't understand. This is what I do." Cleaning is kind of empowering.
Do you have any trade secrets you're willing to share?
Less chemicals. You don't need to go overboard. Just use a little bit, or do soap and water, or vinegar and water. And wet newspaper on glass gets rid of fingerprints.
Follow Ryan Ching at twitter @avantbored.