CHICAGO — If everybody had an ocean, Across the U.S.A., Then everybody’d be surfin’ .... Surfin’ U.S.A.
— The Beach Boys
They sang it. Popularized it. Made it sooo cool.
Our imaginations were captivated by the surfing lifestyle, and we’ve never let it go. The words conjure a sort of magical feeling of an endless summer. You can almost smell the Coppertone.
But wherever sun worshippers hang out at their beach communities, cleaners are there, too, making them look rad. Hey, even surfers and beachgoers get dirty, big daddy, and they need their rags, like, cleaned, man; be it summerwear, beach attire, bikinis, or all the other what-have-you.
From all along the West Coast, and in California beach towns like Pacific Palisades, across the Gulf Coast, the East Coast, and down to Florida, there are cleaners who must ride and conquer the big “waves” — waves being the particular challenges their beach town residents bring to their counters.
One such operation located down in the Sunshine State, is Hollywood, Fla.-based OXXO Care Cleaners, a franchise founded in 2000 with the phrase “We Care,” for its environmentally responsible dry cleaning.
Salomon Mishaan, company founder and CEO, has a lot to say about cleaning clothes unique to the surf, water sports and beach crowd.
“As a quality-conscious cleaner, we do a lot of work for yachts and mega yachts,” Mishaan explains. “They bring us everything from captain and crew uniforms to bedding, dining clothes and many cushion covers.”
This is important, he says, because it is repeat business. “The purser on these yachts trusts he will have the quality he needs, especially when he is away from port,” indicating that he must rely on complete quality for his yachting clients.
“Our everyday customers,” Mishaan continues, “bring their work outfits, but also their golf and beach shirts such as Tommy Bahama, made with delicate materials.
“Many clients wear a lot of linen garments and they have seen that, as in Europe where they are manufactured, these should not be starched or pressed but hand-ironed with little starch so when they are worn, they fall graciously on their bodies.”
American Drycleaner asks him to share specific challenges the beach clothes-wearing customers might present to his operation and machines: “How do you deal with things like sand in clothes; tar from the beach; seaweed; shells; suntan lotions?”
“As mentioned, we care about the garments we clean and the quality we give our customers,” Mishaan says. “Our processes include hand-ironing for drycleaned garments, and shirts are blow-dried on a special mannequin, not steam-pressed, a practice done by traditional cleaners.”
He adds, “We have trained personnel who know how to remove spots without damaging garments. They are also trained on inspecting all garments as they come into the store. This way, we can inform the client from the outset if we are unable to remove a stain.”
As a follow-up, American Drycleaner asks why he located his business in a region of watersport lovers, swimmers and surfers? We all know the song Surfin’ USA, but what drew you to hang ten, so to speak, in this specific market?
“We chose Hollywood, Fla., for our first store because it’s near the beach and there are many homes as well as condos near us,” he answers. “We saw that despite it being in a beach area, many people are quite environmentally conscious and are also hard workers that need our services.”
Then Mishaan adds playfully, “So like another song, R-o-c-k in the USA, by John Mellencamp, we sing ‘O-X-X-O in the USA.’ Hah!”
With a real ‘chill’ surfer vibe going, Mishaan is asked if he can share a story about any of his laid-back surfer-personality customers.
“We have a customer who works during the day but loves to go to the beach as soon as he gets off work,” Mishaan says. “One day, he found out about our environmentally friendly products used to clean and he brought some clothes in.
“He came in right as we opened one Saturday morning, and he was clearly thinking out loud, ‘Why do I have to be at the cleaners when I could be at the beach,’ so when we told him he didn’t, he couldn’t understand,” Mishaan says.
“We explained that all he had to do was register with us. We gave him two bags and showed him how, from now on, all he had to do was drop the bags after dark when the beach was closed and pick up his clean clothes from us anytime day or night,” he says.
“He was the happiest person in the world. He has referred so many people, it’s great, and the only time I see him is when I go down to Hollywood Beach — and he is usually there!”
Let’s paddle back across the waving wheat fields, mountains and prairies of our country, and go from sea to shining sea to arrive at the epicenter of the surfing world, none other than “Surf City” aka Huntington Beach, Calif.
One mile from the Pacific Ocean, on Huntington Harbour, rests Harbour Cleaners. The business was founded in 1973.
“For our Surf City USA clients, we help them look sharp in their Tommy Bahama and Reyn Spooner silks, and the ladies in their summer dresses,” explains owner Saro Semercian.
“We do get unique repair and alteration items that most of the city cleaners won’t see, such as taking in board shorts to bikinis and putting new hooks for bikini tops and restringing swim bottoms and wetsuit repairs and patches,” he points out.
“Huntington Harbour also has its fair share of boaters, so we do get a lot of covers to clean throughout the year,” he notes, adding, “And by the way, Huntington Beach is officially recognized as Surf City USA!”
There can be unique difficulties with being a beach-side cleaners as he relates: “We receive clothes that have strong bonfire odor or a lot of sand. These items are first air-flushed outside to get the sand off and then cleaned in a separate load so as to not contaminate other garments with the smell. And we use products to remove the odors.”
The cleaner specialize in wedding dress cleaning and restoration, and everyday garments such as dresses, slacks and shirts. Harbour also does rugs and outdoor patio furniture for its clients.
This Surf City cleaner has his own story to share: “This is a romantic story. A young surfer customer in his late 20s wanted to plan a sunset proposal so he asked us to sew onto a large beach towel the wording, ‘Will you marry me?’
“His plan to open up the towel to sit on at sunset worked. They are happily married for over two years now. And we’re not outright saying we had anything to do with her saying yes — but we did!”
The owner actually grew up in Huntington Beach, so, he relates, “When this location was for sale, it was a no-brainer. Knowing most of the history of my beautiful city, it’s easy to talk to other locals and welcome new-comers to this gorgeous beach-side haven.”
He ends with this sentiment that nicely captures the mood of probably all beach community cleaners everywhere: “Most of our customers have grown up here, and have surfed all their lives, and being successful businessmen and women hasn’t stopped them from enjoying a nice wave or two in the mornings before heading to work.”
You caught the wave with these three cleaners. There are many more stories out there for sure. But for now, let’s let the Beach Boys ride us out into the warm summer sunset:
We’ll all be gone for the summer, We’re on safari to stay, Tell the teacher we’re surfin’, Surfin’ U.S.A.
To read Part 1, go HERE.