Happy Gappy (Conclusion)


Orange, Calif.-based Kona Cleaners’ managers and team leaders are all smiles. They know the power of connecting with customers, including millennials who rely on apps and social media to do business. Front row from left: Eric, Oscar, Tony, and owner Bobby Patel. Middle row, from left: Flor, Amanda, Emma, Rosa, Valeria, Beverly, Laly, Sandy, Vivian, Ana, Faye and Kamini (Bobby’s wife). Back row from left: Dave, general manager, Karla, Shavon and Maria. (Photo: Kona Cleaners)


Recent holiday party shows the smiling team of Minneapolis- and San Francisco-based Mulberrys Garment Care, where owner Dan Miller exclaims: “I’m extremely bullish on technology. I think with younger users, more is always better when it comes to technology.” (Photo: Mulberrys Garment Care)

Tim Burke |

Technology is big today with millennials

CHICAGO — Do you text in complete sentences? Do you think Twitter and SnapChat are “newfangled?”

Look in a mirror. Pinch your cheek. You might be caught in the newest, quote-unquote, generation gap. You know, out of touch with Gen X/Gen Y customers for their clothes-cleaning needs.

Bobby Patel, owner of Kona Cleaners in Orange, Calif., and Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) district director of the California Cleaners Association, sees differences in the younger generations.

“When something goes wrong, they are vocal on Yelp, Google, and social media,” he points out. “They want everything instantly. They are impatient. They are always on a time crunch. They don’t need the human interaction.”

Also he describes the new-gen customer as being not as loyal, unlike previous generations.


“The most success we’ve had reaching younger customers has been through our mobile app, which allows customers to order pickup and delivery on-demand and monitor the status of their order,” explains Dan Miler, CEO of Mulberrys Garment Care, a toxin-free dry cleaner that he founded in Minneapolis in 2009, now with 15 locations in the Twin Cities and San Francisco Bay area.

“Younger people are accustomed to being able to get anything with the touch of a button on their smartphone and monitor progress as it unfolds. Allowing them to do that with their dry cleaning and laundry is just a logical extension of the interactions they’re used to,” he says.

What are some of the issues today with the younger Gen X and Gen Y customers?

“The two big differences I see between younger and older customers are in the clothes they clean and how they like to drop their clothing off.

“Younger customers tend to do more shirt laundry and wash-and-fold, whereas older customers tend to do more dry cleaning. Younger customers also prefer delivery versus coming into the stores.”

Reaching out and connecting with these customers is key, Miller notes: “Younger customers are the future of our industry so it’s critical to be aware of their needs and preferences.”

Technology comes into play in a big way today with millennials.

“I’m extremely bullish on technology. I think with younger users, more is always better when it comes to technology,” he relates.

“We use e-mail, text, and mobile push notifications to let our customers know about deals, order status, and other updates. While no one technology is a silver bullet, I believe that the full range of technology provides a distinct user experience,” Miller says.

His tip to success in this area: “The biggest secret I have is to look at leaders in other industries. The more you can match the experience that an Amazon or Uber is providing their customers, the more comfortable those younger customers are going to be using your service.”

About the generation gap and the opportunity drycleaning owners have to handle millennials’ clothes-cleaning needs, Patel sums it all up: “This generation is not going to own washers, dryers or an iron.”

The gap is real. Being the “go-to” cleaner that has it all, from wash-dry-fold to apps, is how you’ll work and thrive in that gap. And that’s gap control. I mean #gapcontrol. You get it now.

To read Part 1, go HERE.

About the author

Tim Burke

American Drycleaner


Tim Burke is the editor of American Drycleaner. He can be reached at 312-361-1684 or [email protected]


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