PAUL AND ALICE GUTIERREZ BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY AWARD
This article is courtesy of Spirit of Aksarben magazine.
Like many great American business stories, the origins of Paul and Alice Gutierrez’s Midwest Maintenance Inc. was in a garage. the couple, originally from just outside San Antonio, came to Omaha in the early 1960s, Paul was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base and the two exchanged daily letters.
They married on Aug. 11, 1962, and Alice joined Paul in Omaha. The couple left behind all their family and their tight-knit, culturally rich community to begin a new life in Nebraska. While Paul was finishing out his Air Force commitment, he began working part time for Haskin’s Maintenance janitorial service. A few years later they bout part of the business and called it Paul’s Building Maitnenance Inc.
Armed with little more than a $7 vacuum from Goodwill and working out of the family garage, the couple took on all the work they could get. When children entered the picture – Mark was first, followed by Jamie and then Mona – the couple brought the kids along on cleaning jobs as they couldn’t afford babysitters.
Those early days were “chaotic,” the couple said. “We’d finish cleaning around 3 in the morning, go home to sleep for three hours and get up and do it all over again.”
Midwest Maintenance has become Nebraska’s largest minority-owned business and now has locations in seven states. The business, headed by daughter Jamie, who took over in 1999, was built on Paul and Alice’s core values: assuming responsibility for one’s actions, keeping the lines of communication open, taking pride in a job well done, exceeding expectations and cultivating positivity.
Midwest Maintenance offers a full range of cleaning disinfecting and sanitizing services and has earned national accreditations not only as a minority-owned business, but also as a woman-owned business entity.
Faith and education are two of the tenents Paul and Alice hold in highest regard. They credit their former parish priest, Rev. Anthony Milone, who later became bishop of Great Falls-Billings, Montana, with keeping their spirits buoyant when they needed to rely on the strength of their Catholic faith.
All three children graduated with degrees from college, and later, Paul and Alice earned degrees from Bellevue University. Paul earned a Bachelor of Science in business and Alice was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in art with a minor in psychology.
Even though they are now retired, the couple remains active with volunteer work. Alice is on the board of a nonprofit resale store that raises funds to help prevent homelessness, and Paul is President of the Board of Directors of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Monterrey. They have enjoyed traveling and are both art and history buffs. They also dote on their grandchildren and great-granddaughter.
Over the years the couple has been involved in a number of organizations including Paul’s volunteer work with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a national organization directed at breaking the cycle of poverty by helping low-income people participate in decisions that affect their lives, families and communities throughout the country. He also was on the group’s board of directors.
Paul served for 15 years as Board President of the Chinco Awareness Center, now know as the Latino Center of the Midlands. He was instrumental in getting United Way funding to shift the mission of the center to education advocacy and from strictly a cultural awareness agency to a more service-oriented agency.
Alice was active in raising funds for Head Start and in starting a Head Start program at the Chicano Awareness Center. Together with Sister Jan Mengenhauser, Alice formed the Esperanza program to help new immigrant women orient themselves in the community, economy and medical services and help in finding jobs. Later, Esperanza was passed on to and run by Catholic Charities.
Paul and Alice also served on the Catholic Hispanic Ministry Committee, a group dedicated to bringing Spanish Mass to the Omaha community. In addition, the couple has been involved in projects for the new Indian Chicano Center, now know as One World Community Health Centers. Alice volunteered at the organization to help women in poverty. From its humble beginnings to today, One World now employs over 400 medical professionals and staff.
For Paul and Alice it is a love story that goes back longer than their 60th wedding anniversary, which they celebrated in August. “from the moment I saw her, I knew she was the one,” he said. “Of course it took a bit longer to convince her. But I was content to wait…I was only in fourth grade after all.”
Never mind Alice didn’t actually speak to Paul until their junior year in high school. Growing a small business into a success story all while raising three children wasn’t always easy. But they provided the spark for each other to keep it all moving even when they’d feel overwhelmed.
Paul and Alice’s story isn’t just a great American dream story, it’s also a great love story.