LONG BEACH, Calif. — It was a hot, humid August in most of the U.S., but everyone at Fabricare 2010 in Long Beach, Calif., seemed cool, calm and collected. Held every two years by the California Cleaners Association (CCA), the show benefited from unusually pleasant weather, even for Southern California.
There were fewer booths and fewer people than in years past, reminding me of last year’s Clean Show in New Orleans. That show, too, was smaller, but those who attended were serious about their businesses and sought out information that might help add to their profits. CCA’s Bobby Patel confirmed that exhibit space and attendance were down from previous years, but was pleased with the turnout and interest.
A standout among the seminars was a talk on marketing and customer service with Robert Shapiro, general manager of Milt & Edie’s Drycleaners in Burbank, Calif., and Barry Gershenson, executive coordinator of Leading Cleaners Internationale (LCI). Milt & Edie’s, of course, is the namesake of Milt Chortkoff, a longtime marketing and customer-service guru. I heard him speak years ago, and couldn’t believe his knowledge of human nature.
His three simple goals—“Create a great overall impression,” “Market the business to attract new customers” and “Keep customers coming back”—have made the operation incredibly successful. Shapiro has followed suit, with friendly, uniformed CSRs, a “host” who greets customers and directs them to the next available counter, and other touches that go beyond what most operations are willing to do.
Milt & Edie’s appeals to customers’ five senses by offering fresh popcorn, flat-panel TVs with music videos, cookies, candy and even hors d’oeuvres on Friday afternoons. The plant accepts competitors’ coupons up to 20% off, and CSRs call customers by name, avoiding trade jargon such as “We’ll hit it with the steam gun.”
Milt & Edie’s promotes itself via Twitter, direct mail, the web and television. The company constantly rethinks, reinvents and repositions itself to stay fresh. I couldn’t take notes fast enough, since Milt & Edie’s does so many things and does them so well. The company’s way of doing business is a model for all textile-care providers.
Among the products on the show floor, Rynex made a surprise reappearance with a simplified formulation that reportedly offers faster drying times and no residual odors. Few machines could handle the lighter-than-water glycol ether solvent when it was introduced, and machines built in the last several years should correct the problem.
Many early adopters became ardent supporters of Rynex. The solvent is a strong cleaner and can hold 3.5% to 4.2% moisture to provide good water-soluble stain removal. With no current environmental restrictions and a potential 2,000 lbs. of cleaning per gallon, the new Rynex may prove to be a popular choice for those who need an aggressive solvent other than perc. The company is now located in Albany, Ga.; visit www.rynex.com for more information.
Cleaver-Brooks offered an impressive high-efficiency boiler designed especially for the drycleaning and laundry industries. The boiler is quieter than a washing machine and offers low emissions, 86% fuel efficiency and touchscreen controls, in upright and horizontal models from 10 HP to 60 HP.
New to the show was Firetrace International, a leader in fire-suppression systems for military vehicles and aircraft. The company’s innovative fire-suppression system for hydrocarbon machinery meets stringent California regulations, and is designed to detect and extinguish fires instantly—no sprinklers necessary. If the system’s probe detects fire or excess heat, a tube ruptures, releasing fire-suppressing Halon, which won’t harm clothes, people or equipment.
Two companies again demonstrated bentonite clay products for solvent filtration, Krystal Klean and Tonsil. Users stopped at the booths to brag about their low utility bills and reduced distillation requirements. Both now have cartridges or powder for spin-disk filters.
All things considered, Fabricare 2010 was a good show; as a trade show should, it offered plenty of opportunities to look, listen and learn about new equipment and business strategies. There are only a few more opportunities like this left in 2010; take advantage of one, and it will pay off.
Check out AmericanDrycleaner.com's calendar to find trade shows and educational opportunities.
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