CPEX cleans up

In an unusual business spinoff, Brooklyn brokerage finds new way to mop up extra cash
By Guelda Voien | June 03, 2013 01:25PM
Philip Santini oversees BHG Cleaning Services, CPEX’s latest venture.

Philip Santini oversees BHG Cleaning Services, CPEX’s latest venture.

When is a real estate firm not a real estate firm? When it’s a cleaning service, too.

Commercial brokerage CPEX has a solution to the ups and downs of the real estate market: diversify. That’s why the three-year-old Brooklyn-based firm launched Bespoke Hospitality Group 18 months ago, which now has spawned BHG Cleaning Services, a high-end housekeeping service that should keep the company’s coffers full even during a downturn.

“We really did it for cash-flow purposes,” said Greg Roberts, who is the COO of CPEX, which is owned by Timothy King and Brian Leary. “[We’re] trying to diversify, because you never know what is going to happen in this world.”

The trio has given control of the cleaning service to Philip Santini, a recent graduate of Johnson & Wales University’s MBA program. He oversees the day-to-day details, including a piece of chocolate on every pillow, from the company’s offices on the second floor of 81 Willoughby Street, where CPEX operates out of in Downtown Brooklyn.

BHG Cleaning Services came about serendipitously, Roberts said. The CPEX partners planned for Bespoke Hospitality Group to oversee luxury apartments owned by investors and foreign buyers living most of the time abroad. But it wasn’t long before they realized there wasn’t much need for oversight since most buildings have a management company.

What they learned, however, is that “everyone can afford cleaning,” Roberts said, so the company changed gears.

Today, BHG Cleaning Services employs about 35 workers to keep apartments and small offices spotless. Its customers are individuals, developers, management companies and brokerages. Names on its client list include Aptsandlofts.com, the Corcoran Group, Douglas Elliman, Halstead Property and Citi Habitats.

Roberts has even done a little spit and polish himself, though King and Leary haven’t rolled up their sleeves — at least not yet.

“Sometimes I’ve shown up early and jumped in to help out, he said. “I take my jacket off, but not my suit.”

About 80 percent of the scrub jobs are in Manhattan and the rest are in Brooklyn and Queens. Right now, Roberts estimates that the cleaning arm generates “maybe 10 or 15 percent” of CPEX’s revenue, “but it’s hard to tell because of the sales cycle. It’s really too early to tell.”

And in the image-conscious world of commercial real estate, opening a down-and-dirty branch of business is a departure, to say the least.

But CPEX’s philosophy, Roberts said, is that “we are an entrepreneurial company and always looking at other opportunities.”