CHICAGO — Two stories of drycleaning owners energizing their employees: One, Atlas Dry Cleaners, has fun nicknames, such as ‘Johnnie Nylon,’ hosts regular Friday lunches, and displays plenty of good feelings for employees, and that ‘vibe’ flows lovingly out to customers (and back again too); the other, Ernest Winzer Cleaners, has a hands-on management style that promotes an ‘all-together’ attitude to serve its New York City Broadway clients at all hours because, in their own parlance, “the show must go on.”
“Each employee decorates their area at the counter and most have nicknames for their area or themselves personally,” relates Josh Hannah, who manages Newport, Ky.-based Atlas Dry Cleaners for his dad, owner Stephan Hannah. “Some include ‘Stuck Up Lane,’ ‘Slacker,’ ‘Brat,’ ‘TNT,’ and of course, ‘Johnnie Nylon.’”
That isn’t the only charm to this cleaners. There’s food. And as we know, “food is love,” so they say.
“Every Friday we provide lunch for all of the employees. Employees bring in food and snack for everyone from time to time,” Hannah says.
“We have customers that are aware of our Friday lunch and will volunteer to bring in sub sandwiches for everyone just to show their appreciation,” continues Hannah, talking about the good vibes emanating from working at this 80-year-old drycleaning operation in this town of about 15,000, on busy Monmouth Street, just a few blocks away from the banks of the Ohio River and facing the city of Cincinnati.
ON WITH THE SHOW
Ernest Winzer Cleaners is known for its commitment to Broadway and for its services. They pick up and deliver through snow storms and hurricanes.
“Our drivers work a full day during the day and also work four nights a week to pick up the Broadway shows, as we have to get all of the costumes and wardrobe back to the theaters the following afternoon,” says owner Bruce Barish.
This Bronx, N.Y.-based business has been around since 1908, celebrating nearly 110 years. Barish has worked for his family business since he was 7 years old and he has been full-time since 1986.
He took over ownership of the fourth-generation business (he's a third-generation member), in 2000. Wife Sarah joined the Winzer team in 2005.
“Presently, we have a staff of 20. The majority of our staff have been with us for many, many years. Our drivers have been with us for 20 years and one particular gentleman from our leather staff has been with us for over 40 years,” he relates.
“One of our personal touches is that we personally keep in contact with our customers and their needs, as well as being in the mix with our employees on a daily basis,” he says. “Sarah and myself also physically see and inspect every garment that comes in.”
He notes that their production is Monday through Friday, starting in the wee hours of the nmorning. Some of their employees are at the business as early as 2 a.m. “During the Christmas holiday, some employees are here at midnight.”
During the Super Bowl in New York a few years ago, Times Square was shut down all week.
“We had to coordinate police escorts in and out of the area in order to service our clients and Broadway. This enabled my employees to produce, as opposed to not working the whole week.”
He says that: “Whether it be a heat wave or a snow storm or even a holiday, there is never a question from our clients on Broadway if Winzer is working. They depend on us and we show up, hence the saying: ‘The Show Must Go On.’ The same goes for our employees, they never question working in inclement weather or holidays.”
Expressing how important it is for all their employees to feel like family and always show up eager to work, Barish points out, “There is no margin for error in our business. Everything must be perfect without stains and without damages, superior pressing, and certainly no missed deliveries.”
His customers benefit from this caring environment through “our team working together as a family unit. Therefore, we work together as a fine-tuned machine to make sure we service our customers in a near-perfect manner.”
When the customers call us for a pickup, he notes, and they want something specific done, “The customer is aware that it will be done — but not only the first time, every time afterwards.”
“The secret to Winzer’s success is always striving to be better than it is presently. We take any mistakes personally and try to make sure never to make the same mistake twice,” Barish explains.
The key to his success is operating smoothly and efficiently and always being there for the Broadway clients. His employees, like him and his wife, are reliable. Indeed, the show always goes on for this operation.
Atlas Dry Cleaners and Ernest Winzer Cleaners display different styles of management with employees working together to satisfy clients. One has a great attitude and offers dependable, big-city, can-do service in any weather. The other has equally great service in a fun, friendly, food-happy work environment that provides good vibes and keeps people coming back as clients and friends.
They aren’t all Johnnie Nylon, but dry cleaners are good people and hard-working — and that shines right through to our most important person: the customer!
To read Part 1, go HERE.