In 1978, Scott Perasso was a carefree 22-year-old mechanic. Then, when he was able to purchase the flower shop owned by the parents of his fiance, Sherry, it looked as though that was the direction the pair would be heading after they got married. Instead, their lives took a radical turn with the opening of the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Sparks, Nevada. At the time, this was the largest such enterprise in the world. Through his connections, Sherry’s father was able to secure the parking lot sweeping account for the new facility.
To service the account, Scott moved from Richmond, California to South Lake Tahoe and became a power sweeping contractor. His first sweeper was an FMC machine like the one in the photo to the right. The FMC is a brand that hasn’t been made for many years. “On May 8th of 1978 I started the contract,” says Perasso, “sweeping for $100 a night. I thought this was huge money, which it was at the time.”
Life was good for the newlywed couple but that all changed on October 20th of that year. While driving to Sparks from South Lake Tahoe an accident occurred that would change both of their lives. The year 1978 is when gasoline roughly doubled in cost, from around $.40/gallon to an astonishingly expensive $.80/gallon. Conscientious of the new expense, Scott said he was coasting his Econoline van downhill to save fuel, mesmerized by the gorgeous harvest moonlit night. However, when he went got close to the bottom of the hill and tried to start his car back up, inexplicably there was no battery power.
Fortunately, he was able to pull over into a turnout and, even more fortuitous, his cousin, Johnny, had come along in his own vehicle that night as a helper so he pulled in to give the Econoline a jump. That’s when disaster, in the form of a drunk driver, struck. The drunk hit the van while Scott was in between the vehicles, resulting in injuries to him that included an upper leg amputation of his right leg. Kept alive only because a passing motorist knew what to do to staunch the blood, the next 5 weeks were spent in the hospital.
Although many friends, plus his father-in-law, stepped in to help, ultimately because of the time it took to recover Perasso lost the MGM account. Plus, before the accident the couple had ordered a new Dodge pickup 4×4 to do snow removal at MGM so there was an additional significant expense on the horizon. “I had one leg, no business account anymore, and thought to cancel my truck order. However, Sherry was determined it would be uplifting for me to be able to come home from the hospital in a nice brand new truck. But it’s not like we paid cash for the truck so we still had to pay for it somehow, as well as for everything else.”
Perasso’s father stepped in to buy the couple a snowplow blade for the truck so he could do snowplowing if and when it snowed. In the meantime, Scott went back to the job he’d held four years previously, which was doing maintenance and housekeeping for a motel owned by a friend of the family. For the next five years, Perasso continued with this job while doing snowplowing, as needed, in the winter months.
In 1983, the only sweeping company in South Lake Tahoe came up for sale and the couple purchased it. That was the beginning of Scott’s Clean Sweep and Snow Removal, the business the Perassos continue to own and operate today. Sherry has the position of Operations Manager in the company. The purchase included a Schwarze Supervac, which Perasso recalls as being a real dust-thrower. “These were good times,” recalls Perasso, “there were no other sweeping contractors anywhere in the vicinity. It was an enormous amount of work, though, most of which I did myself on my prosthetic leg. It was a real challenge but I was up for it all. There were a lot of work all night times followed by work all day, but it more than paid off in the long run.”
After about a year, Perasso got rid of his Schwarze machine and tried out one built by MASCO. He’s continued on with the MASCO brand ever since. “MASCO Sweepers were relatively near me,” said Perasso, “and I’ve found them to be pretty reliable. There’s not a lot of downtime due to repairs. They’ve been so reliable for me through the years that I’ve really had no need to consider switching to another of the many brands that are out there these days.”
Most all of the company’s sweeping has been of parking areas, to date, Perasso says, although he bought an excess Mobil broom sweeper from CalTrans a few years ago. He knew there was a demand for winter cleanup in his area, but there were several problems that finally seemed insurmountable to keep it going. For one, finding a mechanic for the larger broom sweeper — work he doesn’t feel he can handle due to only having one leg — is a problem in his area. There was also trouble finding a reliable operator for the machine and, since it’s his right leg that’s gone, he couldn’t drive the right-hand-steer Mobil.
“It was too physically demanding trying to operate the Mobil, as well as finding a quality operator for it, so I decided to just concentrate on expanding the market area for my parking area sweeping,” said Perasso.
In recent years there has been increased emphasis on, and programs built around, ‘keeping Lake Tahoe blue.’ This has focused on a series of Best Management Practices (BMPs) designed to keep storm drains cleaned, minimizing dust and dirt that can find itself into storm drains. The BMP requirements include a higher frequency of air sweeping on streets in the surrounding areas, but no mandate has emerged for keeping parking areas cleaned even though, says Perasso, that’s supposed to be a part of the BMP plan.
“I already sweep all of the larger business centers,” said Perasso, “but to force the smaller commercial enterprises to sweep once-a-month to keep runoff from coming off parking lots, that just hasn’t happened in the 20 years that BMPs have supposedly been in place. In all that time, I’ve only picked up one client who started sweeping due to that concern.
“It’s disappointing there hasn’t been a stronger response, because clearly that’s the simplest solution. [Sweeping is] what can keep the particulate matter and the sediment and more out of the lakes and other areas. The obvious answer is to sweep more often. However, I didn’t get into the industry to get into the politics of it all but it has been difficult to see all the money put into this program when, if they would just do more sweeping, it would make a significant difference.
The money spent on other options, many of which I don’t think would be necessary, is in the many millions of dollars.”
The entire Lake Tahoe area — actually much of the West — has been in a drought the past four years. This has created some financial loss for the Perassos since, as Scott terms it in our accompanying podcast interview, “Sweeping pays the bills but adding in snowplowing sends you on vacations. I didn’t do one spring cleanup after last winter.”
Although initially just affecting snowplowing income, with the continued drought sweeping contracts have lessened, as well. Without the extensive application of sand and salt products that have long been routine in the area, property owners don’t see as much need to hire a sweeper. Last year was the driest on record and the Perassos truly hope that the last few years of mild winter weather won’t continue.
Perasso says their goal, night-after-night, is to perform their duties to the best of their abilities on all of their client properties. In all of the time he’s been in business of sweeping, since 1983, Scott says he hasn’t had one legitimate complaint about the job that’s been done. Plus, he has some employees who have been with him for many years. One has been working graveyard shift for him for 33 years, he says, something unheard of in a tourist community. Another has been with him for 17 years. In all the years he’s been in business, Scott says there hasn’t been a single workmen’s comp claim, either.
“In my experience, when you take care of your employees and provide them with a good living wage,” said Perasso, “they’ll reciprocate with you. They have really done that with me. It’s been great that I haven’t had a constant turnover of employees. And, I’ve never been ripped off by an employee and I fully trust my guys. I’m proud of that.” As a result of his long-standing excellent results, Scott says he’s not had to go to GPS or other tracking schemes.
The company has relied almost entirely on word-of-mouth in getting new customers. Although Perasso says he’s also done some amount of various types of advertising, he has yet to do something that had as much of a return as the ad plan cost them. As a result, they haven’t done any for many years.
“When it snows we have more business than we know what to do with. And, with the sweeping side, we have what we can take care of and do the type of job we want to be known for,” said Perasso. “On my business card it says ‘reasonable and reliable’ and I don’t want to lose that. Here it’s an interesting place weather-wise, though, since there have been days when I’ve snowplowed a lot in the morning and am back in the evening sweeping.”
Scott Perasso’s story is one that shows that tenacity and an ongoing commitment to doing the job right can overcome a serious disability — or at least one that would be very serious to many. He and his wife, Sherry, serve as an inspiration to anyone who is faced with difficulties they need to overcome. Currently he is facing even further challenges with overcoming a myeloma cancer, but, as Scott says, “We will prevail. It’s so wonderful to have my many friends and family members behind me. They’ve done a lot to help me be successful over the years and, in return, I try to reciprocate however I can. It’s really fun doing what I do, especially considering I’ve been physically challenged pretty much from day one.”
If you want to contact Scott and Sherry Perasso, you may do so via email sent to email@example.com.