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 opinions from garment care owners and operators from across the United States.
Rafiq Karimi, Jr., co-founder and CEO, of Chicago area CD One Price Cleaners describes his business this way: “All 36 of our midwest locations are open, although on reduced hours and without same day service.”
He notes: “We are of course regularly cleaning and sanitizing hard surfaces such as counters, railings, credit card machines, workstations and equipment. We are also enforcing frequent, proper hand-washing practices by all of our store team members.”
Karimi points out that, “Out of an abundance of caution, we have temporarily suspended our self-serve ‘free gourmet coffee’ service in order to minimize the chance for contamination. Lastly, many of our stores offer a 24/7 express drop box that requires significantly less interaction with staff so we encouraging customers to take advantage of that free service.” Adding that some of their stores are even temporarily offering curbside pickup.
“In addition,” he explains, “our franchisees really wanted to step up to the plate to assist those that are on the front-lines of this pandemic. Therefore, at 34 of our locations we are offering to do the laundry for healthcare workers and first responders while they remain busy taking care of our communities.”
Karimi adds: “Any front-line healthcare worker, police officer, fire fighters, or EMT just needs to bring in a valid ID and we will sort, wash, dry, and fold up to 20 pounds of their wash and fold laundry every single week through the end of April.”
One operator in New York has seen a rise in his laundry business recently amidst the coronavirus.
Todd Ofsink, owner of Todd Layne Cleaners in New York City says: “Since we are in the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, our business has been impacted. The drycleaning portion of our business has decreased dramatically and the laundry component has increased.”
Ofsink describes conditions: “Many of our customers have either left NYC or are working from home. We reduced our hours and kept our core full-time employees working. All of our current promotions let our customers know that we are open and have implemented new sanitizing procedures.”
He says: “When they say to ‘save for a rainy day,’ this is what they were talking about. We look forward to things getting back to normal.”
Some owners are reaching out to their clients to offer convenient delivery, like one such operator.
“My friend who also owns a cleaners in another city and I both have been proactively calling every single customer who has an in-store order and offering them complimentary delivery along with our normal route customers,” relates Joe Hebeka, owners of Belding Cleaners in the Detroit area.
“The customers have been super appreciative of that offer and we have seen a high success rate with it. Hopefully we can retain them as regular route customers. It’s also helping keep things moving for now,” Hebeka says.
“I also reduced hours at two of my other smaller stores temporarily. Other than that, my staff is working through things with me. Counter traffic has slowed but we’re still seeing some activity,” he shares.
Hebeka follows up: “I’m sure others are doing this but I had my seamstress make 50 face masks and I brought them to the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce where I’m on the board of directors. They in turn are taking the masks to individuals that are still working at essential businesses. Tried to stay open as long as possible until the governor shut us down. We ran our delivery route as long as we could even with our storefronts closed.”
Mary Scalco, CEO of the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) relates: “We are hearing from members across the country that they are understandably seeing a decline in business. Many have instituted curbside pickup in addition to their route service or lockers — anything they can do to make it more convenient and safer for their customers and employees. Most have shortened hours and those that have multiple stores have closed some and rerouted work. Some have their alterations departments making non-surgical masks out of cloth to help keep patients from infecting doctors and nurses.”
This is the time members need DLI and their local associations to ensure they are getting the most up to date and verifiable information as we all work through this crisis, adds Scalco.
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.”
Check back Thursday for the conclusion.