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Cleaners Showcase: Rustling Up Business

ARLINGTON, Texas — Although a bit smaller than usual, the 2010 Southwest Drycleaners Association (SDA) Cleaners Showcase, held in Arlington, Texas, in April, had everything an enquiring operator could want in a show: exhibits, meetings, networking, seminars and awards.
Preconvention events included a seminar with “Cowboy Cleaner” Kenny Slatten, “Production Motivation Criteria for Today’s Owners/Managers,” which covered ways to use downtime effectively while the economy recovers.
Quality often leaves a lot to be desired, and most customers don’t have a clue what “good” cleaning is, Slatten says. Another gem? “You can’t make nice people, you have to hire them.”
Friday evening also featured a preshow inspection of the exhibit floor with refreshments and entertainment.
On Saturday, the show kicked off with an address from Dave Silliman, president of the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI). Then Jon Meijer, DLI’s director of membership, and David Cotter, executive director of the Textile Care Allied Trades Association (TCATA) offered “Tough Economic Times — A Blueprint for Success.”
The talk offered advice on communicating with customers using social-media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Use new-media marketing tools in conjunction with traditional advertising, they say, to reach people who no longer look at the Yellow Pages.
There are no accurate numbers on active drycleaning stores in the U.S., Meijer says, but estimates say there are now 32,000 to 33,000, half Korean-owned. Every drycleaner needs to ask themselves who they are, why they’re there and how they’re unique. If you can’t answer these questions, he says, another profession might be in order.
Sunday’s sessions started off with Myong Kang and Anne Cobb of NIE Insurance, “Talking About Risk.” When a company requests a quote, they say, the insurance company orders an inspection and outlines any risks to the underwriter. A good insurance company will work with policyholders to reduce risk and fill gaps in coverage.
Allan Cripe, the son of DLI past president Jim Cripe, gave a talk on preventive maintenance, lecturing on steam requirements, boiler treatment and boiler scale. Did you know that if your boiler has 3/8" of scale it costs 51% more to operate?
Don’t put an air compressor in the boiler room, Cripe adds, since it needs fresh, cool air to operate properly. Air should be filtered before compression and perhaps run through a refrigeration coil to remove moisture. Vacuums need to be drained daily to remove moisture that can make the tanks rust from the inside out, he says.
Whether it’s a fire-tube, water-tube or tubeless boiler, it needs constant maintenance. Treatment chemicals should be tailored to the water supply and the boiler’s use. When replacing a boiler, Cripe says, buy one with 20% more capacity than what you think you’ll need, so that the burner gets a chance to shut down from time to time.
The show's setting was ideal. The convention hotel recently underwent a $15 million transformation into a world-class facility, and was just steps from the Arlington Convention Center, in the middle of Central Texas’ biggest entertainment district. It was minutes from Six Flags, Rangers ballpark, and the new, $1.33 billion Dallas Cowboys stadium.
The stadium covers 73 acres, with 67 more dedicated to the grounds. It takes 12 minutes to open or close the roof, and the stadium holds 100,000 people. A drycleaners’ tour of the stadium garnered almost as much interest as SDA’s meetings did.
The show floor was comfortable; it was easier to get the undivided attention of exhibitors than it is at a national convention due to its size. Informative displays and live equipment demos appeared throughout the hall. Unfortunately, a fire alarm went off at the other end of the hall on Saturday morning, causing a brief lunchtime evacuation.
Those who stayed to peruse the floor were quality buyers. “It was a good show considering the economy,” says Andy Stanley, SDA’s executive director. “The people who go to shows now are ready to buy.”
Unipress had the largest display of operating equipment, featuring the Lightning AP2 double-buck shirt press and a double-legger that quickly converts into a utility press. Sankosha USA’s live demonstrations of tensioning equipment also drew crowds.
Wesvic showed off its PieceCounter, which can help improve production while tracking output. The unit was on a slick rail at a pressing station, and displayed real-time production figures. Iowa Techniques offered an assembly conveyor and after-hours drop boxes. A heat-seal machine made short work of attaching bar codes, which every cleaner can use to save money and reduce lost garments.
Ann Hargrove presided over the National Cleaners Association’s (NCA) booth with a full display of the association’s offerings, including up-to-date bulletins on problem garments. In addition to many educational opportunities, NCA offers Green Cleaners Council (GCC) certification, an e-mail marketing program and a web-design service.
UrineOff, a 2009 Clean Show favorite, drew a crowd three deep. I first thought that the product wouldn’t have much interest from drycleaners or their customers, but boy, was I wrong. The product completely and immediately removes odors, and the UrineOff literature-files-on-wheels are a popular advertising giveaway.
Cleaners Showcase 2010 was small, but it was big enough to display most major items a cleaner needs, and the show floor was easy to get around. Old products were displayed alongside new, and new sideline businesses were popular.
I heard a lot of people say they were pleased with the show, and I heard a few who didn’t attend later say it was awful. I guess it depends on what you want to get out of a show, and how much effort you want to put into it.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].