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Merit Award Winners in the Spotlight (Part 2)

Ian P. Murphy |

More exceptional plant projects from American Drycleaner's 46th Annual Plant Design Awards.

More exceptional plant projects from American Drycleaner's 46th Annual Plant Design AwardsJenny K Dry Cleaners began the renovation of its small satellite location in Meridian, Conn., by replacing its counters. Soon, operators Al and Ana Marques noticed something unusual: a steady increase in new customers that was producing a storage crunch.
Within months, they had bought a three-tier White conveyor system to be able to store more clothing. At the same time, they installed a new Itsumi shirt press to supplement the finishing coming out of the central plant, improving shirt quality. The latest addition? A scrolling sign that advertises seasonal specials.
Simultaneous with these incremental improvements, manager Tina McGrath began decorating the call office to reflect the season, offering conversation hearts at Valentine’s Day, throwing a beach party in July, and celebrating the World Series with displays of baseball memorabilia. Customers can’t wait to see what will be next, she says—and anything that keeps them coming back is good for business.Oakridge Cleaners is located in a strip mall across from the Super Wal-Mart in Ocala, Fla., “the horse capital of the world.” In keeping with the wholesome, agrarian ethic in this part of Florida, Matthew Franzese’s 1,200-sq.-ft. plant is the first all-wetcleaning facility in the area.
The small plant’s understated décor includes rustic ranch-style flagstone on its exterior, a clean, striped gold-and-white paint scheme, and vintage cleaners’ signs for a touch of nostalgia that customers seem to appreciate, Franzese says. It’s a classic look for a contemporary small-plant concept.
With no solvent and only three employees on the premises, the production floor is uncomplicated. One wall is dedicated to tensioning and traditional pressing equipment from Hoffman/New Yorker; Oakridge also has 90 lbs. of computer-controlled Wascomat wetcleaning capacity for processing and a double-deck conveyor for storage.Perfect Cleaners owner David Suber transformed a “dark, dirty dungeon” of a plant and made it into what the demanding customers of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood expect: a clean, welcoming space.
When the previous tenants — also drycleaners — lost their lease, the building was in shambles. The walls were waterlogged; the equipment was rusty and sooty; there were bars on the windows. But few customers could tell just how badly the plant had aged in the dim light.
After a complete overhaul, the 2,800-sq.-ft. plant is bright, efficient and upscale. Large windows illuminate a spacious call office that customers can access from the street or a rear parking lot, grabbing a free cup of coffee on the way in.
The production floor features all-new drycleaning, wetcleaning and tensioning equipment, allowing the operation to offer a Perfect complement of urban services to its urbane clientele, including alterations and shoe repair.
Ling and Bo Woodruff’s new 3,000-sq.-ft. Premier Dry Cleaners plant was the first new drycleaning plant in Platte City, Mo., in 30 years, so they worked with local officials and the developer to create a location ideally suited to the trade.
The owners chose to use GreenEarth’s silicon-based solvent to satisfy landlord and bank concerns, and carefully deliberated on every piece of equipment. It paid off: The production floor is arranged to create smooth workflows on the wet and dry sides, while workers keep cool with exhaust fans and spot cooling.
The stately plant also features a large, covered drive-thru for convenience, and custom “waterfall” countertops in the call office for understated elegance. While business is building to full capacity, the owners say, the project has created so much positive buzz for the industry that everyone from those involved in its development to kids from the adjacent Montessori school is asking for tours.
Located across from a Target store on one of the busiest streets in Wichita Falls, Texas, Andy Kocher and Kelly Blake’s Star Brite Cleaners was a gut rehab that took a lackluster liquor store and made it into a showplace production plant.
The owners cut six windows into the front of the bare-brick façade, added a drive-thru and installed back-lit blue awnings to make Star Brite shine at night. Inside, custom cabinetry employs dark woods and marble to evoke a serious businessplace, similar to a bank.
Star Brite’s renovation also produced an efficient, comfortable work environment. The owners isolated their air compressor to reduce noise, placed water heaters close to their large-capacity washers for efficiency, installed mercury-vapor lighting for energy savings, and added 20,000 cfm of rooftop air conditioning to cool workstations and common areas. In arid Texas, customers and employees alike can drink to that.
Founded in 1914, family-owned Village Cleaners recently expanded its upstate New York plant 2,500 sq. ft. to 6,000 sq. ft., enabling it to process 6,000 pieces in a 40-hour shift, as well as serve six drop stores in conjunction with a second plant.
To accommodate garment-laden customers, the project included automatic in/out doors at the plant’s main entrance. Ample parking is located at the front of the quaint, freestanding building—which now only looks small from the street.
Inside, conveyors and rails shuttle orders from new hydrocarbon machines (installed to satisfy the state’s stringent regulations) through six finishing stations. A storage conveyor hangs in the windows on the upper level, making the most of the space and offering a subtle advertisement.
Together, the plant’s eight-person staff has 145 years of experience, owners Henry, Daniel and Jeffrey Cook add, ensuring that Village can continue to ensure high- quality, focused drycleaning service.Congratulations to all of the winners! Are you completing a new build or renovation this year? Enter it in American Drycleaner's next Plant Design Awards! E-mail imurphy@crain.com to request an entry form.

About the author

Ian P. Murphy

American Drycleaner

Ian P. Murphy is a freelance writer based in Chicago, and was the editor of American Drycleaner from 1999 to 2011.

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