The Worst Cleanups

The Worst Cleanups

An Osseo company makes a living going where most cleaners wouldn't dare: crime scenes.

Connie Nyquist’s uncle died in his home in South Minneapolis last March. Found in his La-Z-Boy recliner almost a week later, his bodily fluids had leaked through the chair, the 1920s hardwood flooring, and into the unfinished basement. The smell penetrated every inch of the 750-square-foot home. At first, Nyquist didn’t know who to turn to for help.

But a quick Google search turned up Osseo–based Scene Clean Inc.—a company primarily known only to those who need it. It is Minnesota’s largest biohazard clean-up company, and the only company in the state certified by the American Bio Recovery Association (ABRA).

Scene Clean scrubs up after body decompositions, homicides, suicides, traumatic injuries, hoarding and gross filth situations, methamphetamine labs, tear gas, and animal and rodent infestations. It also offers services such as odor removal, home restoration, and even real estate brokering—and is constantly adding services needed by customers they meet. (They’re even currently fostering a cat named Gus, who was pulled from one of their hoarding jobs.)

Scene Clean president and founder Nate Berg worked as a paramedic for 15 years and regularly witnessed horrific scenes. “I got to thinking, ‘Who cleans this stuff up?’ ” he says.

Vice reported in 2018 that “decades ago, crime scene clean-up businesses … were nearly nonexistent. Today, hundreds of independent companies have multiplied across the country,” but none were in the Twin Cities metro area. That meant family members were often forced to clean up behind the homicide or suicide of a loved one—not only psychologically retraumatizing but also a biohazard.

Berg retired from active paramedic duty in 2010 and, though feeling burnt out from witnessing daily traumas, he was still passionate about helping people in difficult times. So with his wife, Jenny, he founded Scene Clean in 2012.

They currently have four full-time and six part-time employees, all of whom have backgrounds in at least one of the following fields: biohazard remediation, law enforcement, military, EMS, fire, and/or construction.

The Bergs’ initial investment in the company was just $7,000, but within 6 months of opening, they began turning a profit. That profit has grown 15 to 20 percent each year since (though they expect growth to level off some this year). In 2018, they responded to 263 calls and made high six-figures in revenue. “This year, we should break the million mark,” Nate Berg says.

Something most people don’t realize, the Bergs say, is that their services are often covered by homeowner’s insurance. “We’ve got a situation now where I don’t want the family to go in and see how their loved one died,” Nate says. “And that’s what we’re here for and that’s what insurance will cover—for us to come in and erase that for them.”

An insurance agent herself, Nyquist luckily was aware of that aspect. She called Scene Clean two days after her uncle was found, and the team helped her search for important belongings and documents before cleaning, deodorizing, and restoring the home. They filmed everything for the insurance company, were discreet around the neighbors, and kept Nyquist informed—and even emotionally supported, she says—every step of the way.

“I was handling this all alone, and it was just so wonderful to have them there. They got it,” Nyquist says. “They got what I was looking for.”