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Life & Times in The Industry: Personal Memories from Those Who Were There

I was in college and needed money to finish when I agreed to work for a year as the manager of a drycleaning plant. I fell in love with the idea of owning my own business, and especially with owning a drycleaning business. I got the education of a lifetime!
I became friends with two of the greatest consultants in the industry, Stan Golomb and Stan Caplan. Stan Golomb taught me more than I could imagine about marketing, and Stan Caplan taught me everything I ever needed to know about cleaning and production.

Dennis McCrory
The Golomb Group
Chicago, Ill.


It all started with a seemingly simple question from a customer in 1992: “Do you do fire jobs?” Seeking to grow our newly-acquired drycleaning business, I responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes, we do!” without having any idea what a “fire job” entailed.
I set out to learn exactly how to handle an atypical drycleaning situation. We soon formed an insurance-restoration division at Huntington Cleaners, which became the foundation for the 2001 launch of the Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network (CRDN). Today, CRDN is the largest textile restorer in America.

Wayne Wudyka
Huntington Cleaners & Shirt Laundry/CRDN
Huntington Woods, Mich.


I’m concerned about the future of the industry because of people’s patterns of dress. When you can’t tell the janitors from the business owners, you’re in trouble. People treat you better and think you’re smarter if you dress up. I’m concerned that drycleaning will become a boutique industry.
As many challenges as we have, I still like going to work every day. When I’m vacationing in Florida, I’m just another grey-haired guy with money in his pockets. When I’m in Columbus, I’m Paul Gelpi, of Swan Cleaners.

Paul Gelpi
Swan Cleaners
Columbus, Ohio


In 1999, I decided to cross over to the “dark side” and be a pioneer in CO2 [after owning] six perc plants and three agencies over 22 years. I was always working on the next plan.
The worst thing about owning a drycleaning business is the employees, and the best thing about owning a drycleaning business is the employees. I remember the best ones, and how they’ve gone on in life with the lessons they learned at “the cleaners.”

Gordon Shaw
Hangers Cleaners
San Diego, Calif.


In 2001, I was enlisted by the U.S. EPA to develop a PowerPoint presentation for small-business compliance programs. My presentation was scheduled for 1:00 on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at the Sheraton National Hotel, just a few blocks from the Pentagon. If course, I never had the opportunity to give that speech — and today, I still get flashbacks when I hear the sounds of sirens and helicopters.

John Spomar Jr.
Norco Cleaners
Dolton, Ill.


It’s important for the industry to realize that this is a cycle. When there is a serious downturn, people aren’t working, and they don’t need drycleaning. In bad times, people look for bargains or ways of saving money, and try to do things at home. But this, too, shall pass.
Good drycleaners are as important today as ever. Every anniversary has as its objective another one down the road, and the drycleaning industry will be around for another 10, 20 and 100 years. Those who can accept and participate in change will survive.

Bill Seitz
former executive director, NCA

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Click here for Part 2.
Click here for Part 3.
Click here for Part 4.

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