(sponsored by the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce)
“I hadn’t been out of town on business that week,” explained Roy McLain, owner/operator of Dry Clean Super Center of Bartlett, “so my wife added only my Sunday shirt to our weekly dry clean order. “The shirt was hanging on my closet door in the dust cover with the invoice attached when I noticed that we were charged $3.00 to have one dress shirt laundered and pressed. “When asked about this charge, my wife…noticing an opportunity to push my buttons…responded, ‘You probably don’t realize that it costs $10 to $12 to have one of your suits dry-cleaned.’”
“My jaw dropped open…the earth moved…time stood still,” McLain continued with a grin. “I can’t tell you what was going on in my mind at that moment, but the look on my face made my wife turn away in an attempt to hide a smile as she hurried out of the room.”
Since that conversation during the summer of 2005, Roy McLain has been intrigued by the dry cleaning business. “I’ve been involved in the apparel industry for over 30 years, so I understand how both knit and woven fabrics are produced and dyed. “I know how garments are constructed. “As a young industrial engineer in a garment factory, I learned how various elements (plant layout, automation, etc.) can increase efficiency and reduce costs. “I was convinced that there had to be a better way to return dry-cleaning value to the consumer.”
Costs associated with protecting the environment have increased the price of dry-cleaning over the years, but McLain is convinced that rising costs have also been driven by the industry’s traditional business model. “Historically, dry-cleaners have surrounded their central processing facility with multiple ‘pick-up stations’ in strip centers,” he said. The cost of transporting clothing to and from a pick-up station was passed on to the consumer. “There was a time when a family could absorb the cost of the vans, drivers, and fuel necessary to do business at a neighborhood pick up station, but I don’t think that’s the future of dry-cleaning…at least among the majority of the population.”
After doing some research, McLain contacted Kwik Industries in Dallas, TX. “A friend of a friend had opened a Dry Clean Super Center built by Kwik in the Jackson, MS area, and the store was doing well. “Additionally, when I heard the DCSC (Dry Clean Super Center) price on laundered shirts and dry-cleaned garments, I knew I’d found a home,” McLain said.
The Dry Clean Super Center goal is to combine value with outstanding services. With the exception of leather & suede garments, all cleaning is done on the premises. DCSC offers same-day service (in by 9am, out by 5pm), covered drive-thru service, and express bag service with a 24-hour drop box. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover cards are accepted in an additional effort to make the drop-off and pick-up of cleaning orders as comfortable and as easy as possible for DCSC customers.
Kwik has built over 150 units since the
first store was built in 1994…with more than 80 Dry Clean
Super Centers in the Dallas metro area alone. Each store is independently
owned and operated. “The advice/counsel of Kwik Industries,
and several of their many Dry Clean Super Center operators, has
been invaluable,” McLain commented.
State-of-the-art equipment gives a new operator some advantages, but Kwik executives cautioned that automation is not an end in itself. “If a machine produces cost savings that I can pass on to my customers with…and this is very important…no compromise to quality, I’ll always be interested. “Such a machine is helping me deliver laundered shirts to my customers right now at the lowest every-day price in this market,” McLain added. “I’m not convinced, however, that every new piece of equipment out there produces value for the consumer.”
It’s a question of how far an owner takes automation. “At the far end of the spectrum, there may someday be operators in a few cities delivering finished orders to customers via a credit card swipe and an automated delivery conveyor…like buying a bag of potato chips at a vending machine…but I’m not sure that will ultimately fit the nature of this business,” McLain observed. “What’s the advantage to the consumer if the price structure of a fully automated dry cleaner is at or above my own?” “Can an automatic conveyor delivery system work with a customer to get a dry-cleaning order just right?”
“There’s nothing more personal to an individual than one’s wardrobe,” McLain noted. “A single dry-cleaning transaction can represent the processing of someone’s favorite blouse, dress, or sports jacket.
“I’m going to be on site to make sure that my customers know we understand that at Dry Clean Super Center of Bartlett.”