Happy Gappy (Part 1)


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 |

Generation-gap: Reaching younger customers

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.

But how important is it for drycleaning operators to reach and connect with these new customers?

“It is extremely important to court millennials,” Patel says. “These are the customers we are going to deal with for a long time. Millennials are going to go to businesses that they perceive to be cool, technologically advanced, and provide a good value.”

So, technology reaches them. Patel explains: “We are constantly tweaking our website to have a modern vibe. We use SMS/e-mail for order-ready alerts. We have an app, and on it we have a feature that the client can use to alert us they are on the way so that we can have the order retrieved from the conveyor and ready when they arrive.”

He adds that Kona wants to explore 24-hour service using lockers.

Since this generation does not respond to any kind of traditional mailers, Patel relates, the only way to reach this client is through an online presence.

“We have had a huge success in reaching this client base through cultivating positive ratings on Yelp and Google, and coupon usage via our mobile app is well-received,” he says.

The app might be the most important tool you will develop in your business this year.


“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.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

About the author

Tim Burke

American Drycleaner


Tim Burke is the editor of American Drycleaner. He can be reached at 312-361-1684 or tburke@atmags.com.


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