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Starting Out in Dry Cleaning (Part 1)

Stories about entering the drycleaning business; latest in How-To Series

CHICAGO — What was it like on your first day as a drycleaning owner? Or your first day in the dry cleaning business?

Can you remember back?

Let’s jog your memory with a trip along “memory boulevard” to when we first started out.

A drycleaning owner shares his memories, thoughts, anecdotes and lessons learned... in his own words.

Here’s Joe Gagliostro, owner of Muldoon Dry Cleaners located in Auburn, N.Y.:

“Muldoon Dry Cleaners Inc. was founded in 1925. We are a full service drycleaning company with two locations that specialize in couture care, along with same day service. I am the owner along with my wife Diana, and my main responsibility is running the day-to-day operations.

“I am a third generation dry cleaner, so I have had industry background my entire life. My family warned me that this is a very demanding line of work, with long hours, and that if I so chose to run it, then it would run me.

“All true.

“I started working open to close daily right out of high school in 2003 mainly because of a passion to carry on my family’s legacy that took hold of me,” Gagliostro says. “One thing I’ll never forget was when I first started out I wanted to impress my grandfather and come in extra early. I even dressed up.

“On this day, I arrived a few minutes before 7 a.m. We opened at 7:30.

“I was feeling really good about myself for being there a half hour before opening. Upon entering he said that he’d like to give me a little bit of advice to help me start my days.

“He said it would be best if I tried to come into work earlier than this from now on to start prepping!

“You could imagine my shock as an 18 year old who thought he just woke up and started extra early! In hindsight it was kind of funny that I thought I was ahead of the day and the store ate me up and spit me out.

“Years later,” he relates, “I was coming in so early that I even changed our store hours to open at 7 a.m. because customers were used to seeing me inside on their way to work!”

One of his best “lessons learned” is not to sell himself short, he points out.

Gagliostro says: “Accounts definitely come and go. I used to push really hard to pick up commercial accounts or out of town route stops. Its very easy to lose sight of the work that is already at hand when trying to focus on making gains.

“I wish a few of them I hadn’t given such deep discounts to gain their business, because it didn’t last for a very long time, and I lost out.

“We would have been far better off charging our standard commission rates or without them at all. It’s taught me to do a better job selling my product for its quality and consistency in those situations.”

If you weren’ t a dry cleaner Joe, what would you be doing?

“Honestly, I cannot image in my life not being a dry cleaner. I have no idea where I would be, or what I would do.

“I would think that most newcomers drawn into the drycleaning business have a history or family background to help influence that decision like mine. Perhaps some have gained knowledge working through the ranks also,” he says.

The saying goes: doctors want to save the world. And, probably, realtors want to buy it; and philosophers want to explain it; do dry cleaners want to clean the world?

“Do dry cleaners want to clean the world?... Heck yeah! I do!”

What advice can you give to someone starting out in dry cleaning?

Gagliostro says: “My advice to anyone starting out new in the drycleaning business is to give 100% to everything you do everyday. It will make you a better person in general. This business can wear you down, so you need to find the best in yourself.

“Focus on your customer service, make customers feel valued as they should be — they keep the door open!

“Try to educate yourself on technology and techniques to give yourself a competitive edge. Reinvest in your business through yourself. If you’re just starting out, you should be doing as much as you possibly can on your own. It will help to teach you, and your employees will respect you, knowing you can hop on that press like them too.

“Finally, keep up your machinery, and upgrade when necessary. It’s always better in the long run, your product will show it, and your customers will notice the difference!”

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.