Two men in suits pose near a pile of rags
Gary Collins (left) and David Murphy have run a North Carolina-based commercial cleaning business together for more than 30 years Mark Wagoner Productions

A lifelong friendship is a beautiful thing, but unfortunately not all too common. Changing interests, different goals and aspirations, moving to new locations — variations big and small often drive grade school playground pals away eventually. Luckily, that’s not the case for David Murphy and Gary Collins, childhood friends who have stayed very close for decades due in part to their differing, but complimentary, personalities and a thriving cleaning company that keeps each working hard to make the other happy.

Murphy and Collins founded Supreme Maintenance Organization, Greensboro, North Carolina, more than 30 years ago, but it’s fair to say the foundation of the business was forged much earlier.

Born a few months apart from each other in 1965, the boys sprouted a friendship at the age where life seems to consist of juice boxes, arithmetic, story time and Saturday morning cartoons. Although it took place during an exciting time in their life, the reason the boys started hanging out at age 5 or 6 was more a story of practicality than spontaneity. 

Looking back, Murphy thinks location provided the first significant nudge towards the long friendship. Collins and his family lived a few houses from the street corner where they’d hold chats throughout their formative and adolescent years. Murphy’s house was also just a chip shot away from this area.

“Growing up together, David and I shared a lot of common experiences,” says Collins. “Whether it was just our close proximity to one another, playing church softball together, or taking beach trips together, I think the trust and understanding of one another started early on. We have been business partners for over 30 years, but we have had each other’s back for a much longer time. And like any genuine friendship, we still have each other’s back.”

Sports — both pickup and organized — were a big part of the boy’s lives from a young age and into their teen years. Murphy excelled at sports while in high school, playing both football and baseball, but Collins didn’t have as much a desire to participate in organized activities. A lot of things make teen years awkward, one of which being the way friendships mirror a game of musical chairs. Kids break off into packs and cliques, isolating those that aren’t able to grab a chair fast enough. But Murphy always made sure to welcome Collins in joining the teammates he was befriending, preventing any potential “drifting apart” of lifelong buddies and laying a foundation for how the two men would always care for each other as they grew up. 

“I can’t really explain it, but I have always had a desire to include Gary on anything that I thought would benefit him in anyway,” says Murphy. “I would assume that comes from a profound care for one another.”

Soon, there was another thing Murphy thought Collins should join in on: cleaning.

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Past Cleaning Business Helped Form Supreme Maintenance Organization