Original ‘woman for hire’ retires 35 years after starting one of the county’s largest cleaning companies – Salisbury Post
SALISBURY – Sheila Cannon’s dad didn’t like the name.
He actually hated it.
âMy dad was so mad at me,â Cannon said. âHe didn’t speak to me for about three or four months. He said, ‘I can’t believe what you called this business.’ “
The controversial Cannon brand epiphany came one night while she was at home with her husband, Homer, watching a made-for-TV movie about a housewife starting a successful cleaning business. The 1985 film, “This Wife for Hire,” struck a chord with Cannon. She was preparing for a return to home cleaning and the movie gave her the inspiration she needed.
âWhen this movie came out, I said to my husband, ‘That’s the name,’â Cannon said.
The name stuck.
âWe started having so many homes because the name went crazy,â Cannon said. âWhen the name got so wild, I think people just wanted to know who was brave enough or stupid enough to choose the name Wife For Hire.â
The name might have been the bait, but it’s the quality of the cleaning that has backed Wife For Hire for decades. After owning the business for 35 years, Cannon retired a few months ago.
Wife For Hire was not Cannon’s first foray into the cleaning business. A native of Lexington, Cannon began cleaning houses in the Davidson County town at the age of 16, a young mother in search of a source of income.
âI needed the money to help raise my kids,â Cannon said. âIt was the only thing I could do at my age. I cleaned and babysat this woman’s two little boys for $ 8 a week.
She needed this extra income even more after the death of her first husband when her daughter, Dawna, was 7 and her son, Scott, 3. Cannon took a second job at a cotton mill, cleaning houses in the morning, then clocking in for a second shift. Cannon found the cleaning business more profitable and relied on it to raise her two children.
Cannon eventually remarried in 1984 and moved with Homer to his Rowan County home.
Cannon was considering her next career change when she and Homer stumbled upon “This Wife for Hire” on television that fateful night. When Cannon first started the business, she was his sole employee, cleaning every house. She was also the person who answered phone calls for the business, heard pranksters or genuinely confused men looking for a different kind of business.
âI’ve had calls where just about anything you can imagine has been said,â Cannon said. âWe just laughed and carried on. “
There were also serious inquiries. So much so that Cannon had to hire more help.
âWe grew and grew, and then we hired another girl, another girl and another girl,â Cannon said.
At one point, Cannon had keys to 96 homes in Rowan County and 166 clients she cleaned for on a monthly or weekly basis. She kept a team of about eight cleaners, divided into a few units.
Homer even stepped in, pressure cleaning the houses and cleaning the second story windows – a husband for hire. Almost everyone in Cannon has also become part of the business, at least for a while.
Each Wife For Hire employee wore white tennis shoes, red or white pants, a Wife For Hire shirt, and a bright red Wife For Hire jacket.
âWhat color stands out better than red? Canon said.
Cannon and his employees traveled to clean homes across the county in a 15-person passenger bus or his large white Chevrolet Suburban, studded with advertising magnets on the side. Reduced-size Cannon vehicles in 2013, swapping the large SUV for a much smaller Kia Soul, covered from front to back with the Wife For Hire logo. The soul was, of course, red.
âEverywhere I went people looked at this car,â Cannon said.
Cannon credits the company’s success to its smart marketing, but gives even more credit to its employees.
âI was so proud of it and so proud of the girls because without them I couldn’t have done all of this,â Cannon said. âI really appreciate them and love them all, every one of them, because they’re good girls. The point is, we’ve built our reputation on kindness, trust, and honesty.
Many Cannon employees have remained loyal to the company for over a decade. Dorothy Moose started working at Wife For Hire in 2005 and cleaned for the company until last year. She started in the business because it was an open job, but stayed with the business because of the clients.
âI love all of the customers,â Moose said. “You get to know everyone around you and you learn about them and they become your family instead of your friends.”
It helped to have a good boss, Moose said.
â(Cannon) is the best person in the world,â Moose said. “She’s been there for me for a long time.”
Moose is one of the many employees who have worked at Wife For Hire for over a decade. Several remained even after Cannon sold the business. Its new owners will continue to use its well-known name and logo.
Wife For Hire may no longer be hers, but Cannon will continue to appreciate the business she created.
“No one is going to take away what I have built …” said Cannon. âI am so proud of what we have accomplished. “
His father, Arvil Burkhart, was also proud of Wife For Hire.
âMy father passed away in 1990 and before he died he said, ‘Sheila, I just want to tell you how proud I am of you. I didn’t like the name, I still don’t like the name, but I’m proud of you for what you did, âCannon said.