HANOVER, Mass. — Every so often, a new idea comes along, and the idea I’m about to describe might be Mike Baroni’s contribution to the industry. It’s not exactly a completely new idea, but his execution makes his business unique.
In simple form, it dresses a drycleaning operation to look like a shiny, new retailer and sell products that align with dry cleaning. That is, anything to do with maintaining appearance.
Baroni explains it this way: “People who come into a dry cleaner are interested in their appearance. So why not give them upscale lines of products that will help them be attractive? At the same time, this retailing will make it a pleasure to walk in. It will be exciting to see new products that they wouldn’t see in the big box or even department stores.”
All this enhances the customer’s experience at the dry cleaner, Baroni says. “This is so different from walking into the dull, industrial, unclean look of so many dry cleaners.”
His new business, Clean Factory — with a cog logo in place of the letter ‘o’ — fits the bill as an upscale place to do business. The shop has polished hickory floors, LED spotlight lighting, soft music, and about 500 square feet of retail showroom.
Clean Factory does its part in the processing end to turn out a quality product. It does many things that high-end cleaners do, such as clipping shirt sleeves together and stuffing blazers to give a full-bodied look. At the same time, the company maintains e-mail contact with its customers.
Finally, regular customers receive 401 garment bags. “It would be silly to have a great-looking place with high-quality merchandise and turn out clothes that look like they weren’t cared for,” Baroni says. “It wouldn’t make sense, so our dry cleaning needs to be high-quality.”
To gain business, the company is embarking on a heavy marketing campaign. This includes Valpaks, ad books, supermarket receipts, Groupon, radio ads (Baroni is running ads voiced by him on local WATD radio), and e-mails that announce deals.
As for the chosen location, it’s on a busy main street in a shopping sector. A large mall is up the street. “Sure, there’s competition,” Baroni says. “There are several dry cleaners along this road. But there’s also plenty of business. This particular retail strip has a high vacancy rate now, so it was relatively easy to negotiate a pretty good five-year lease with a five-year option. Plus, its 1,500-square-feet space works for us.”
After retail volume is going, Baroni will go after commercial and group retail volume. He says, “Both my manager, Tom Fitzgibbons, and I will approach law offices, banks, industrial companies, and offer to do their dry cleaning in return for gaining easy pickup and delivery service, becoming a VIP member and receiving a 10% discount.
“We will also go after commercial trade, from barbers to restaurants. We’ll get business in here through the back door.”
Along with this, Clean Factory will set up its website so customers can order their clothes to be picked up, processed and delivered. With this additional service, Baroni will be able to convert some of his office customers to pickup service. The company’s motto is: “Whatever is most convenient for the customer.”
An alterations department will generate additional volume and secure business. The seamstress comes in three days a week from 9 to noon, but that time could increase. A “Tailoring by Elizabeth” sign hangs out front. Her seamstress skills will also help with the tuxedo trade.
A nifty feature is the VIP bag, given free to customers. This is a suit cover bag that doubles as a dirty-laundry bag. It’s a twofer and is all the more useful. A showroom display highlights the two-use feature of the bag.
To encourage volume, there are always specials going on, such as “Three sweaters for the price of two.” To that end, Clean Factory is open seven days a week with convenient hours. In addition, a 24-hour lockbox has been installed in front.
“We don’t want to give the customer any reason not to come to us,” Baroni says. “We want to make it as convenient as possible.”
This is Clean Factory’s first year of operation. Getting volume up to a profitable level takes time, while he attempts to remake the industry into his personal notion of what the drycleaning experience should be about.
The innovator is one who is willing to do something different. It’s the way the industry advances.
To read Part One, go HERE.
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