BURBANK, Calif. — They keep their eyes peeled on Alameda. It’s almost that time again. They know a new saying is coming.
Then, there it is! People point. Cameras flash. And, soon, cell phone pictures of the saying are posted on social media.
As of this writing, the sign reads Make Changes Not Excuses.
“The sayings have nothing to do with dry cleaning and everything to do with life,” chuckles Milt Chortkoff. “Customers love it. We change the saying every two weeks.”
One of his favorites: The Only Thing Constant is Change.
The saying on that prominent sign welcomes customers to Milt & Edie’s Drycleaners & Tailoring Center, a bright, busy, pink-colored store on Alameda Avenue.
Milt and his wife Edie recently celebrated Milt’s 70 years in the drycleaning business. A gleaming, refurbished 1946 GMC delivery truck parked in front of the store highlights his many years, and people can take pictures standing by it. It resembles the one he used to make deliveries while working for his father’s cleaners as a 17-year-old in 1946.
Speaking with Chortkoff by phone, he describes how he came up with the expressions he posts on his front sign. He is energized and excited to share his thoughts and feelings about the business he loves. You wouldn’t know he’s 86 years young. His daughter, Beth Shader, joins in the conversation.
“There are dry cleaners everywhere. Why, there’s even three right near us,” Chortkoff says. “I asked myself, ‘What can we do different?’ I decided we needed a marquee with motivational sayings.”
But there’s far more to this wonderland of services and smiles than just witticisms on the marquee.
He notes that there are two sayings they live by at their store: “On the production side: quality work delivered on time; and on the sales side: all customers leave happy always.”
“A customer is not a customer until they’ve visited us six times,” explains Chortkoff.
“We get them in the store with promotions. OK. Everyone does that.” He continues. “But we make our atmosphere unique.” That brings people back.
When customers arrive and pull into the parking lot, they are greeted by colorful signage, but that’s only the beginning. Chortkoff explains that there are flowers to greet them and music piped outside as well. Inside the store, music concert footage plays on four flat-screen TVs for customers to watch and enjoy.
“We have fresh popcorn and fresh coffee 24-7, and we offer cookies and candy,” Chortkoff says. “We have a maitre d’ who greets customers and helps them find the service counter they need fast.”
“The cleaning plant is like my living room,” he says with a steady, sure voice. “The customer is my guest in my home. We feed and entertain our guests and make sure they are happy.”
Milt & Edie’s offers their guests free hot dogs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s very popular,” Chortkoff says with amusement. “We see people calling all the time on their cell phones to tell friends and family on the other end of the line about the hot dogs.”
Check back Thursday for the conclusion!