YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — “Every day has been Casual Dress Day during the pandemic lockdown,” relates Stephen Weiss, third-generation president of family owned LaFrance Cleaners.
Small businesses across America are feeling the financial pressure created by the widespread coronavirus restrictions, he writes. Many are experiencing an average 80% cut in business and need to develop ways to survive — then thrive — as states reopen.
“People just aren’t doing as much dry cleaning as they would normally do so we had to think fast and work hard to make things work,” says Weiss.
With millions of people taking refuge from the virus outbreak by staying at home and avoiding unnecessary shopping trips, LaFrance Cleaners notes, it is concentrating on its free pickup and delivery service.
“We have offered some version of this since my grandfather came to Youngstown to start this business more than 70 years ago,” says Weiss, “but the public, and even many of my own customers, didn’t think they needed this convenience until they couldn’t leave their home.”
Same for the Wash and Fold service, he adds. “The option to send out items to be washed, dried, folded and returned is not new. However, when a family is swimming in laundry due to trying to work from home and homeschool their children, they are looking for solutions that save time and are affordable.”
Weiss responded by creating branded laundry totes for customers. Additionally, Weiss points out, he has seen an uptick in new customers come aboard during this crisis because of investments LaFrance made during the last 18 months in website SEO and online ads.
As a result of these innovations, he relates, prospects have found LaFrance services first on a simple Google search and Weiss has been able to keep most of his staff employed and limit business losses.
Having initially shut down all of retail stores and cut plant production to two days per week, LaFrance just reopened their Boardman location because its design can accommodate the protocols necessary to provide the safest environment for both customers and staff, it notes.
New measures include the installation of protective counter shields, wearing of gloves and masks, availability of hand sanitizer on site and in delivery trucks, curbside pickup, and drop-off, it adds.
“Reopening does not mean the struggle is over for this Mahoning Valley business,” says Weiss. “I cannot say what will happen even next week. We are constantly evaluating the situation as it develops to make further decisions.”