Loss of a job; hard work led to success for Falls Facility Services in SW Birmingham

By Nathan Turner Jr.

For The Birmingham Times

Mary Helen Falls is the CEO of Falls Janitorial Services, a black-owned cleaning service. (Reggie Allen, for The Birmingham Times)
Mary Helen Falls is the CEO of Falls Janitorial Services, a black-owned cleaning service. (Reggie Allen, for The Birmingham Times)

Hard work has been a hallmark of the family-run Falls Facility Services in southwest Birmingham since it was founded in 1959.

“Dad would leave Birmingham on a Thursday and return home on a Sunday after working on buildings,” said company vice president Thomas Falls Jr., 51, who runs the business with his mother, Mary Helen Falls, who is president, and his sister, Vanessa.

At its apex, the commercial-cleaning and facility-management company employed about 600 workers and cleaned buildings in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida. Facilities included Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, the Anniston Army Depot, and Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida.

Today, the company handles about 80 customers, including schools, commercial offices, and medical institutions. It employs from 160 to 170 employees, about 60 percent of whom are full time, according to Thomas.

Over the years, the company has faced challenges like networking, getting financing, and finding qualified employees.

“We now have older, more settled employees in their 40s and 50s. In the past, younger workers would pass the background check and quit,” said Thomas, a graduate of Jacksonville State University.

Company founder Thomas Falls Sr. was employed as a driver for an engraving company in the 1950s when two older workers asked him to buy a bottle of liquor. After he refused, the pair lied and said Falls had broken the company vehicle. Rather than pay a hefty cost to fix the vehicle, he quit. Soon afterward, Falls Facility Services was born.

Vanessa Falls, a former special education teacher, promised her parents that she would continue their legacy after she retired.

“It is important to have something to carry on for our children in terms of the family business and my parents’ philanthropy, giving back to the community,” said Vanessa.

During her childhood, the business was operated out of the family home in southwest Birmingham, and children in the household contributed to the work team. At client companies, they dumped cigarettes out of ashtrays. And at the house, Vanessa recalled, “From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., we would answer the phone saying, ‘Falls Janitorial.’ After 5 p.m., we would just answer, ‘Hello.’”

 

For more information …

Falls Facility Services Inc.

Address: 1911 Jefferson Ave. SW, Birmingham, AL 35211

Phone: 205-925-2594

Website: fallsfacilityservices.com

 

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