We Are the Fixers (Part 1)

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The Wrenchers! (From left) Michael “Chat” Chatelain, business partner and Presto Valet VP; Richard “Buddy” Gritz, owner of Presto Valet; and Frank Pannell, production manager. (Photo: Presto Valet)

Tim Burke |

Owners share their DIY tips, like checking equipment every day

CHICAGO — Is there a “fixer” inside you? Maybe you don’t even realize it yet. But drycleaning plant ownership might bring out the “wrencher” in you sooner or later. Or it already did.

Is there a DIY repair person in you waiting to get out? Who knows, you might even find out you like it. Hear from three drycleaning owners who do.

“Since I am not mechanically inclined, and I was taught to surround myself with people who are smarter and more skilled than I am, I went into partnership with Bill McClary, McClary Appliance Service, who had proven his competence at maintaining and repairing our drycleaning plants and Laundromats,” relates Buddy Gritz, owner of Presto Valet of Virginia Inc.

“Bill and I opened and installed two additional drycleaning plants, a dry store, and a Laundromat. We designed the stores ourselves, purchased the equipment from the manufacturers ourselves, and installed the equipment ourselves,” Gritz says.

“Bill has an uncanny knack for figuring out what’s wrong and how to fix it when equipment breaks. Over the years, two additional team members have developed expertise at doing routine repair and preventive maintenance on our equipment. ‘Chat’ Chatelain, my business partner and vice president of production, and Frank Pannell, our production manager,” Gritz points out.

“They can handle most of the day-to-day maintenance. If we’re not sure what to do when the equipment breaks down or stops working, we can always rely on Bill to fix or replace it. Bill is now retired and in his 80s, but is always on call for us. We rarely need to call an outside service person to maintain, repair, or replace our equipment.”

Presto Valet was opened on April 7, 1951, by Harold J. Weisblut, Gritz’s father-in-law. Gritz notes it is a full-service dry cleaner using GreenEarth products and specializing in providing “superb customer care, processing theatrical costumes, and solving our customers’ problems. I started working at Presto Valet on April 21, 1967, and took over the business in 1974.”

After his discharge from the U.S. Air Force as a special investigator, Gritz says he was planning to join the FBI and pursue a career in law enforcement. “However, my father-in-law informed me that I needed to support his daughter until the FBI school started, and told me that his manager had quit, and suggested that I work at Presto Valet for a while.”

After only a month, he notes, he was enjoying his interactions with customers and crew so much that he abandoned those law enforcement plans.

“I completed the National Institute of Drycleaning (now DLI) 139th general course, which was a comprehensive 10-week course that included basic repair and maintenance of drycleaning equipment,” he explains. Between his training and the expert maintenance knowledge of partners McClary and Chatelain and manager Pannell, he is able to handle almost all equipment fixes.

Here are some tips Gritz passes along about maintaining your drycleaning equipment:

“The key to maintaining the essential equipment in a drycleaning or laundry business,” he says, “is never be in the position of having to wait for the repair of a piece of equipment or for a small part. We check the working condition of every piece of equipment daily to make sure that everything is functioning properly, so that we can continue operating the plant and pleasing our customers.”

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

About the author

Tim Burke

American Drycleaner

Editor

Tim Burke is the editor of American Drycleaner. He can be reached at 312-361-1684 or tburke@atmags.com.

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