Plant Design Awards — Grand Prize: Margaret’s Cleaners (Part 1 of 2)


Margaret's Cleaners
Margaret’s Cleaners’ 22,000-square-foot plant in San Diego was the Grand Prize winner in the 51st Annual Plant Design Awards. (Photo: Margaret's Cleaners)


Margaret’s Cleaners
The call office invites customers to see and experience Margaret’s products and services. (Photo: Margaret’s Cleaners)


Margaret’s Cleaners
Drycleaning machines. (Photo: Margaret’s Cleaners)


Margaret’s Cleaners
Shoe repair department. (Photo: Margaret’s Cleaners)

Bruce Beggs |

SAN DIEGO — Margaret’s Cleaners’ 22,000-square-foot plant, formerly an upholstery fabric outlet, was designed from the ground up for servicing couture garments and accessories. Work on the two-story structure began in summer 2009 and continues today.

“That’s who we are,” says Chuck Horst, president of the family-owned company and the plant’s designer. “We’re always making changes. I have two departments in a temporary home as we’re still getting the remainder of those departments set up. … The plant is 95% complete.”

Margaret’s services more than 150 fine retailers. It offers delivery throughout Southern California plus Las Vegas, and nationwide through CleanByMail.

The difficulty of getting into and out of La Jolla, site of its previous flagship location, and a desire for less cramped quarters were factors in taking on the $7 million project, Horst says.

“We needed a more centralized, easily accessible location, and I needed enough space that I could have an aisle,” he quips. “We’ve kind of designed the plant in cells, so there is a laundry cell, a drycleaning cell. The cells themselves are fairly compressed so it’s easy to move things around, but to move around the plant is much easier.”

Expansion probably isn’t going to be an issue, at least not for the foreseeable future. “This plant is capable of doing four times the volume we’re currently doing now,” Horst says. “I think this is the one I’m retiring with.”


Margaret’s is a multi-solvent plant with Firbimatic machines utilizing GreenEarth and DF-2000, with Sanitone chemicals, and performs an extensive amount of wet cleaning and hand cleaning daily. Six full-time spotters and cleaners work in the drycleaning department. Additional cleaning staff members are dedicated to the laundering of shirts, bed linen and table linen.

Specialty departments each include a dedicated staff to clean and process draperies, handbags, leathers and suedes, and shoe and luggage items. Having a full-time master cobbler as well as a master color mixer for refinishing has proven to be invaluable, according to the company.

Horst favors selecting the appropriate equipment for the job at hand, so the plant utilizes machinery from a variety of manufacturers, including Unipress, Ajax, Sankosha, Hoffman-New Yorker, Forenta, Wascomat, Chicago Dryer Co., Maytag, and others.

“We tend to rebuild (equipment) ourselves or buy them rebuilt,” he says. “The really only new things that went into the plant were two new cleaning machines and the Parker boiler.”


Featured in the design is the ability for consumers to see and experience a significant portion of the products and services that Margaret’s offers. The 1,600-square-foot call office provides an ever-changing display of wedding gowns, evening gowns, handbags and more.

Two large windows into the finishing clean room provide a glimpse of the more elegant aspect of the business―wedding and evening gown finishing―and packaging and boxing for preservation. Brides are encouraged to make an appointment to visit and view the boxing process.

Video monitoring and recording permits the viewing of its remote call offices as well as strategic points throughout the 22,000-square-foot facility. Horst says having recorded customer interactions at the front counter for the past 10 years has proven useful in addressing claims and disputes.

Next: Two professional photo studios are available to keep up with photography demands...

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.


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