JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Association of Wedding Gown Specialists (AWGS) met in person recently to discuss marketing strategies with other wedding industry experts, elect officers and honor two people who have served their industry with distinction.
Oceanside Cleaners in Jacksonville, Florida, hosted the meeting, which was sponsored by Foster-Stephens, Inc., Sankosha-USA, Inc, Select Risk Insurance and Kleerwite Chemicals. The owners, AWGS members Mike and Amy Harris, gave the attendees tours of both their award-winning plant (2020 CNET Global Best Practices) and an automated drop store.
Honoring Service and Leadership
One of the highlights of the meeting was the presentation of the 11th annual Jack Barth Memorial Award of Excellence. Started by Linda Stokes-Barth in remembrance of her late husband and his achievements in the drycleaning industry, the award recognizes an AWGS member for the advancement, promotion and development of industry standards for wedding gown care, as well as their contributions and service to the Association and its members.
For the first time, there were dual honorees — Greg and Margaret Butler of Dublin Cleaners in Columbus, Ohio.
“The Butlers represent the heart of our association — family-owned businesses with a long history of both exceptional care for wedding gowns and community activity,” said AWGS president Kermit Engh during the presentation. “When the Butlers joined the association in 2007, they credited AWGS for tripling their gown business over the following year, but AWGS in turn has greatly benefited from their membership — not least because we truly look forward to the true pleasure of their company at our meetings.”
Dublin Cleaners processes nearly 1,000 wedding gowns each year and annually wins the cleaners category for “Best of Columbus Weddings.” The Butlers have also served on the AWGS Board, and regularly lead discussions at meetings to share their insights and experiences in the industry. They have also helped initiate many of the AWGS outreach programs, such as the partnership with Wish Upon a Wedding. This Columbus-based charity that grants wishes for weddings and vow renewals to couples across the country who are facing illness or life-altering circumstances.
Sharing Ideas and Experiences
Speakers at the conference presented a range of trends and ideas for branding and networking. Kirsten Ott Palladino, founder and editor of EquallyWed.com, spoke about learning to use inclusive language and affirming values. Something as simple as adding the phrase “We support wedding equality” to a website, for example, can be an effective way to better serve and market to the rapidly growing LGBTQ+ community.
Trevor Allred of Kenect.com demonstrated the benefits of marketing via text through a business phone number rather than a personal cell phone. As opposed to dealing with texts to a personal number at inconvenient times, a company’s business phone can be programmed to be available 24/7 and accommodate a repeatable process with an automatic response.
Francis Flair’s presentation made the important point that effective management of the customer’s experience can make price irrelevant. Flair spoke about creating standards for each part of the cycle of the customer’s experience to remove variations and provide a consistent world-class customer experience at every touchpoint by every employee.
Other presentations included “Is Your No. 1 Employee (Your Website) Ready” by Tracy Arnett of Wedding and Party Websites, “Surviving the Pandemic and What Lies Ahead” by Kermit Engh of Methods for Management, “Documenting the Bride’s Gown” by Vikki Reed of Fashion Cleaners in Omaha, Nebraska, and “Why and What to Blog” by Michael Astorino of Fabricare Cleaners in Norwalk, Connecticut.
In addition to speakers, there were a series of round-table conversations offering everyone in the group the chance to discuss topics ranging from the best techniques for dirty hemline to magnets for attracting wedding couples.
New, Returning and Retiring Leaders
Re-elected to office were President Kermit Engh, Vice President Gary Fine of Parkers Custom Clothing Care in Toronto, Ontario, and Secretary-Treasurer Sharlene Thum of Five Star Wedding Gown Specialists in San Antonio, Texas. Malcolm MacGregor of Browns Cleaners in Ottawa, Ontario, serves as immediate past president and chair of the finance committee.
Incoming members of the Board of Directors are Mila Martin of ArGown Preservation in Bentonville, Arkansas, Michael Rowe of Shores Fine Drycleaning in High Point, North Carolina, Angel Suarez of Rey’s Cleaners in Miami, Florida, and Heather Ziccarelli of Owl Cleaners in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Retiring members of the Board were Arturo Nanes of Tintorerias Bosques in Mexico City, D.F., Nadine Rana of Style & Grace Cleaners in Toronto, Ontario, Steve Rettler of All Seasons Garment Care in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Marcello Rodio of Moline Kronberg Cleaners in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.
Members new to the Association are Ben Feingold of Fabricare Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Janet Garman of Glyndon Lord Baltimore Cleaners in Baltimore, Maryland, Vicky Hanifl of Schafer Cleaning in Jackson, Michigan, A. J. Davidson of La Mer Cleaners in Juno Beach, Florida, Ray Kroner of Kroner Dry Cleaners in Cincinnati, Ohio, Major Bauknight of Brashier Polk Cleaners in Greenville, South Carolina, Theresa Johnson of Fourways Dry Cleaners in Devenport, Tasmania , Fiona Miller and Nikita Williams of The Green Dry Clean in Bathurst, New South Wales , and Brian Fowler and Stuart Odermatt of Leon’s Fine Dry Cleaning in Brisbane, Queensland.
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