The living room of the Galleria-area apartment smells of old cigarette smoke, which, all things considered, isn’t a bad thing. It’s been only a few days since paramedics removed the decaying body of a 31-year-old murder victim from the space. There’s a large blood stain on the cream-colored carpet and, next to it, a bloody footprint.
“Stay there; you’re in the safe zone,” Matt Mistica, owner and president of Bio-One Houston, tells us, motioning to the area by the front door. Wearing disposable plastic booties over his shoes and latex gloves, he surveys the scene, taking photos, so that he can make a bid on the job of cleaning up the place. All the while, the complex manager waits just outside the door, trying to distract a curious neighbor. “I’m sorry I didn’t go in,” she tells us with a polite laugh. “I just ate my lunch.”
Mistica is a 30-year-old San Francisco native who moved to Houston in 2009 to continue his career as a financial analyst. A few years later, though, he decided to start his own business. The only question was what kind of company it would be. “I looked at opening up a Cold Stone Creamery, Baskin Robbins, Jamba Juice, Subway, McDonald’s,” he says, “and then I found Bio-One.”
He opened his franchise in June 2014, offering hoarding, suicide, homicide and unattended death cleanups, as well as assistance with sewage backup and hazardous-waste removal, with help from a small team of technicians. The work often entails Mistica entering homes—wearing a Bio-Suit, gloves taped to his wrists, and a respirator mask (which he likens to “cleaning your house while wearing a trash bag”)—and ridding them of things like blood and fecal matter, carting off contaminated materials in a toxic waste bag.
From the start, business boomed, and accolades soon followed. Last year, not only did the Houston Apartment Association nominated him for their Supplier of the Year award, but Bio-One Inc., which has dozens of franchise locations across the country, named him Rookie of the Year. This past January, Mistica opened a second Bio-One outpost, in Austin.
The work isn’t easy, of course. “There’s hardships in terms of what was there prior to when you were there,” Mistica, wearing his usual black pants and polo shirt with Bio-One Houston logo, tells us after leaving the Galleria-area apartment. But he’s discovered that he finds it satisfying. “We help people,” he says. “We help people at the most sensitive time of their life, at possibly the worst day of their life.” Cleanup often ends, he adds, in hugs from family members of the deceased.
Mistica attributes his success to his dedication. He’s on call 24/7, including holidays—something, he’s quick to say, he signed up for. Jobs come in at all hours of the day from law enforcement officials, apartment communities, social workers, homeowner associations, and loved ones of the deceased, which means time away from his own family and girlfriend.
“I’ve jumped out of the shower, run out of movie theaters,” Mistica says. “When my phone rings, I know that a person on the other line needs my help.” As if on cue, his iPhone lights up. “I’m sorry, I have to take this,” he says. “Bio-One Houston, how can I help you?”