Women’s work

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Sisters keeping Clean as a Whistle running smooth

By Stephen Lega

Mary Michael Townley and her sister, Pam Hutchins, have been cleaning up vehicles for as long as they can remember.
“We used to wash cars at home when we were kids for everybody,” said Townley, 47.
Hutchins, 44, agreed that it’s something they’ve done all their lives, going back to their youth in Raywick.
Townley said she thinks they charged less than $5 back then.
“They did that to make money and paid for their school clothes,” their mother, Phyllis Troutman, said.
Today, they’ve made cleaning cars and oil changes their business. Clean as a Whistle has been open for 21 years, including 19 years at its current location, 614 W. Main Street in Lebanon.
Townley and Hutchins were working at Fruit of the Loom in Campbellsville when their parents, Phyllis and Michael Troutman, and their brother opened Clean as a Whistle as a car cleaning business. The sisters started helping in the evenings when they would get off work.
“After a year, it was going good enough to make it a full-time gig,” Townley said.
By the second year, the business had outgrown its original location, which is why they moved and decided to add oil changes to the services they offered.
“We have a lot of people tell us they can’t get over it being all women, and that’s pretty cool,” Hutchins said.
A few customers even make it a point to have lunch with them regularly.
Troutman thinks that’s a reflection of the personal service they offer. Every month, she said they mail out cards for weddings, birthdays, and sympathy because they know more about their customers than just the condition of their vehicles. That may be why several customers have been with them since they opened. In some cases, they have even worked on cars for multiple generations of families.
“They’re all regulars,” Townley said.
She and Hutchins agreed that running their own business has been much better than their old job.
“Absolutely,” Townley said.
“Oh yeah,” Hutchins agreed.
Townley has two children, and Hutchins has one. They liked that they were able to watch their children at the shop when they were too young for school, and that they could take off when necessary to pick them up from school.
While the work is the same, they also said that every day offers a different challenge.
Of course, that may come from two sisters working together, too.
“We fight every day,” Townley said. “Kiss, make up and come back tomorrow.”