NEW YORK — The Columbia (University) Aging Center recently launched the Age Smart Industry Guides, one of which prominently featured Bridge Cleaners & Tailors. The Brooklyn business, owned by the Aviles family, has a workforce that ranges widely in age, and the comfort of staff is important to management.
In a recent press conference promoting the Industry Guides’ launch, Richard Aviles, co-owner of Bridge Cleaners & Tailors, spoke about his company’s position on employing older workers and how important they are to Bridge’s success.
Aviles’ parents started their business about 45 years ago, and he began working there about a decade ago. They own three locations, all in New York City: Bridge Cleaners & Tailors, King Garment Care, and a production facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” he says in a phone interview with American Drycleaner. “We’ve had some wonderful years. We’ve had some interesting years.”
He mentioned those “interesting years” during the press conference, describing the major damage inflicted on the production facility by Hurricane Sandy. The business had a couple weeks after the storm to rebuild, so Aviles sat down with the production team to discuss ideas for creating a better work environment.
Of all the ideas for rebuilding, 90% of the “best” ideas came from team members, not upper management, he explained.
“If they’re going to be working there eight, nine hours a day, it’s important that they work where they love,” he says. “We wanted anyone, when they got to their workstation, it has everything that they need to produce the best quality that they could and then also feel as comfortable working in that space as they could.”
Aviles credits his mother, Victoria, for leading Bridge Cleaners & Tailors to create a culture of caring for employees.
“It’s like the age-old tale: the customer is always right,” he says. “Always take care of the customer no matter what. Well, my mother’s philosophy has always been to do everything you can to take care of the people who you work with.”
By listening to employees and getting to know them on a personal level, he says, “then you create a culture where people are passionate about going to work and passionate about training other people and only wanting to see the businesses progress.”
Another practice put into place by Victoria Aviles has been the hiring of individuals from a variety of age groups.
Richard Aviles believes that younger workers lack decorum and relationship-building skills that older generations innately have. The older generation believes it’s important to reach people on a personal level, he says, which enables them to teach the younger workers how to provide good customer service and build a more loyal customer base. But younger staff can teach the older about the computers and processes that are also important in conducting business.
Gabriella Lawson, a Senior Service Representative for Bridge Cleaners & Tailors, spoke on this topic during the press conference. She was trained in system processes by a younger worker less than half her age, she says.
“Something complementary about our work relationship is that I’ve led by example on how to properly take care of a customer,” Lawson says. “I feel she showed me the technical aspect of the job, but I’ve reignited the fire in her belly for providing excellent, outstanding customer service, which is always appreciated and needed.”
Check back Thursday for the conclusion!