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 Hanover, Mass., shop has polished hickory floors, LED spotlight lighting, soft music, and about 500 square feet of retail showroom.
The retail space completely integrates with the drycleaning area, as the counter is in the middle of the store and covers its length. In back of the counter are clothes racks.
Alongside the counter is a display of tuxedos, a small sideline. Shelves stick out from both front walls. A few point-of-purchase circular displays sit on the floor.
Product lines include shaving kits, shoe cleaning products, garment rain repellents, clothes detergents, wallets, toiletry bags, briefcases, cleaning cloths, odor reducers, body lotions/ointments, stain solutions, aerating hangers, bleach alternatives, static solutions, sports detergent, wool and cashmere shampoo, and umbrellas.
All products are natural and organic, and have terrific packaging. For example, Naked Bee, Baroni’s line of personal skin care products, comes attractively packaged in yellow and black tubes and bottles in a yellow display.
All told, the store’s retail items represent a dozen vendors, so management has an easier time of merchandise control. Another example is the cleaning cloths, called E-Cloths because they are environmentally sound. Simply add water and the products are ready for use. And they last. The display of E-Cloths churns out a continual video to explain their use.
Several products have private labels that read Clean Factory. According to Baroni, this adds to the image. All of the products are attractively packaged.
For example, the line of detergents come in glass bottles with white caps and artful white and black labels. There is the sense that these products are high-end. Maybe there are items that customers will treat themselves to, and when they find out how much they like them, will make regular purchases.
As a former retail executive, Baroni knows the world of upscale retail. Merging the two worlds just might work. At any rate, he has created an interesting place to visit, and that’s as good a beginning as any. Clean Factory is a drop store and not a plant. For that reason, the investment hasn’t been huge.
Rather, Baroni has been able to focus his dollars on the storefront. To get started, he hired drycleaning consultant Bob Devaney to help strategize his plans as well as find a location, negotiate a lease, choose vendors, and do all the things a new business has to do to be up and running.
With 30-plus years in the industry, Devaney’s help was invaluable, particularly in choosing a drycleaning partner and negotiating the contract, which was tricky.
“You get what you pay for, and we needed to deliver high-quality cleaning,” Baroni says. “So we demanded a dry cleaner who turns out clothes at a certain quality level and who has some excess capacity and who wants the business.”
The arrangement struck is a varying margin according to the item. Having a charge-per-item basis gives management more control. So far, it is working out just fine. The dry cleaner picks up and delivers six days a week.
Check back Thursday for the conclusion!