LAUREL, MD. — The Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) recently announced its 2021-2022 Executive Committee. As new Directors are sworn in, their predecessors move to an executive position or become DLI Senators, an exclusive title for previous members of the board.
The members of the committee are volunteers from the industry, and have seen firsthand the effects that the pandemic has had on the industry.
Chair: Jess Culpepper of Culpepper Cleaners in San Antonio, Texas
Culpepper says he volunteered to serve on DLI’s Board of Directors “to attempt and do what I can to help DLI and other dry cleaners. I consider my family fortunate that the drycleaning industry has provided us and our employees a means to earn a living since 1911.”
Finding workers is what Culpepper sees as one of the biggest challenges facing the industry — but he also sees an opportunity.
“Moving forward, I see a shortage in the labor force, so becoming more efficient wherever possible will help mitigate that problem. On-demand and online shopping will continue to grow, which equates to more of the retail dry cleaning business becoming pick-up and delivery, which we need to embrace as an opportunity.”
President: Bobby Patel of Kona Cleaners in Costa Mesa, California
Patel says he is eager to serve as DLI’s president as a way to give back. “I volunteer to serve the drycleaning industry that has provided a living for me and my family,” he says. “I joined DLI 20 years ago. DLI helps me keep up with the current industry trends and has made me a more professional dry cleaner.”
What does Patel see in the industry’s future? “We will continue to see closures from the impacts related to COVID,” he says. “The drycleaning business that survives will do well.”
President-Elect: Jeff Schwegmann II of Sunshine Cleaners in Cold Spring, Kentucky
Schwegmann first became acquainted with DLI through a regional group. “Several years ago, I attended a Midwest Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (MWDLA) meeting in French Lick, Indiana,” he says. It was my first drycleaning conference. I met (DLI Past President) Jan Barlow, who gave the keynote speech. She encouraged me to attend the board meeting.”
Schwegmann went on to be appointed to the MWDLA board, became president, and then joined DLI’s Board.
He also believes that the labor shortage will be the biggest challenge facing the industry in 2022.
“The employment market is tough and will be for a long time,” he says. “Members need to take advantage of the training tools DLI offers. Members need to look at all the benefits their membership provides and use the tools as part of their training programs.”
Treasurer & District 1 Director: Kathy Benzinger of Benzinger’s Dry Cleaning in Hamburg, New York
Benzinger first joined the board to follow the example of someone she respected.
“At Fall Fest, I was introduced to one of my great mentors, (Former District 1 Director) John Dallas. At the time, they were looking for a District Committee Member (DCM) and asked me if I would be interested. As a DCM, I attended all DLI board meetings. When John later left DLI’s Board, I was more than happy to take on a larger role.”
While 2022 will have its challenges, Benzinger believes the industry will ride them out.
“I believe we will continue to see significant changes, but we should not be fearful of them,” she says. With all change comes growth, much of which will benefit our members and the industry. In the past, our industry has been slow to change. To remain strong, we will need to move quickly. DLI can lead the way by continuing to provide and improve online learning opportunities such as educational courses, webinars, and YouTube training videos and by modeling the shift away from fearful statements, such as ‘piece counts are shrinking.’ Positive thinking leads to a brighter future.”
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].