CHICAGO — COVID-19 is affecting all parts of our world right now. In the garment care industry we asked several drycleaning owners to tell us how they are coping with COVID-19.
The following are more opinions from garment care owners and operators from across the United States.
On the west coast, like many U.S. owners, this one owner is thinking about his team members especially.
Bobby Patel, owner of Kona Cleaners in the Orange County, Calif. area, and co-partners in the marketing firm BeCreative360, notes: “I am a very positive person but in this case I don’t have anything positive to say. No one in our lifetime has seen anything like this. Business will decline before it gets better.”
Patel says, “When our clients are not working, they don’t have anything to dry clean. I am most concerned about our team members. The staff will be eligible for unemployment benefits.”
Another garment care operator on the west coast, Dave Suber, owner of Perfect Cleaners in Los Angeles points out, “We are considered an ‘Essential Business’ by the mayor of Los Angeles who specifically named dry cleaners. Business has dropped off a lot as you can imagine, we do mass emailings to our database, household specials plus a lot of fluff and fold. Thank god we have routes.”
Brian Cass, co-owner with brother Dave of Metro Milwaukee Martinizing says that, “Things are very hard right now. Our state has issued a stay at home order and only essential businesses are supposed to be open. Fortunately, cleaners are essential.”
Cass notes that: “We have closed all 11 of our stores and are doing pickup and delivery only. We are reaching out to clients via email, social media and phone calls. We have contacted our landlords and vendors about stopping payments. Cash is essential right now, so we are trying to conserve as much of it as we can.”
Cass adds: “We are providing protective gear to the remaining employees and following all recommended protocols. It is a very uncertain time right now but there may be positives that come out of this when it is all done.”
Tom Zengeler, owner of Zengeler Cleaners in the Chicago area has connected with friends and partners such as Bill Odorizzi from Sankosha and Jeff Fox from Washburn Machinery to check and see how they were doing.
Also, Zengeler notes: “I belong to two industry groups for decades, Roundtable and Management Concepts, and both groups had conference calls for all members to help one another through this difficult time.”
Zengeler adds this: “My loyal employees have been unbelievable during this time to help me operate as efficiently as possible. My loyal customers want to continue to do business with us to support us during this down time in business.”
Winzer Cleaners owner Bruce Barish relates that recently, New York City area stitchers, as many as 300 he notes, have volunteered to make non-surgical gowns at their homes to donate to healthcare and received the go-ahead in early April. Another way to reach out to the community to cope and help in these times.
In speaking with other garment care owners around the U.S. and reading their answers to American Drycleaner’s recent Coping With COVID-19 survey, they include:
• “Shorter hours, laying off employees who are getting unemployment, sanitizing and cleaning.”
• “Essential Services and laundry service…. Thank goodness we can stay open.”
• “The personal situations of owners and team members are paramount. We’re closed for their safety.”
• “We are doing the best we can, and doing whatever we have to do, in order to get through this.”
These thoughts from owners and operators in garment care show how they, and you, are trying their best to cope with COVID-19 right now, such as:
Laundering services, special pickups and drop-offs, route business, emphasizing cleaning services, more social media messages, and owners helping support their communities and keeping their teams safe and healthy.
Reduced hours and staff layoffs have happened at many operations, and some owners are partnering with fellow owners to share plant services during reduced production. In these tough times business is down, as garment care owners tell us. Some have closed and stayed home and hope to re-open.
To you, your family, your team and your clients: Be safe, stay well, and get through COVID-19.
To read Part 1, go HERE.