Parkway Cleaners fuels development means of innovation and customized work

His firm has dealt with all the pieces from White Home drapes to decades-old sports activities uniforms to the flowery tapestries that grace Embassy Row. Parkway has cleaned a quilt sewn a former first girl and the flag adorning the sales space at Ford’s Theatre the place Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

Located inside the 10,000 sq. ft of his new headquarters in North Bethesda is a climate-controlled fur storage vault, an ozone room for smoke and odor removing, and one nook devoted to cleansing elaborate window drapes and blinds.

“My bread and butter is ‘Mr. and Mrs. Working House owner,’ ” he stated. “However we now have a variety of different methods to serve prospects and make cash.”

About 75 p.c of his enterprise relies on routine pickups and deliveries to these 3,000 core prospects three full-time drivers. The remainder comes from walk-ins with particular requests comparable to a bridal robe or vintage rug.

The enterprise has two full-time seamstresses who exchange buttons, sew up tears and do full alterations.

Parkway’s advertising targets upscale neighborhoods comparable to Chevy Chase, McLean and Potomac, the place shoppers demand — and are prepared to pay for — custom-made remedy for his or her belongings.

“If I see a home that sells for over $1.5 million, we’d mail them a coupon and say we’d like to be your dry cleaner,” Simon stated. “If they will afford a $1 million home, they in all probability costume properly.”

Simon makes use of bar codes to document his prospects’ preferences, comparable to whether or not they need their sweater draped over a hanger or a crease of their pants. “It’s a labor-intensive enterprise,” he stated.

Parkway depends on a crew of expert longtime workers to ship specialised service. “We spot- and hand-clean clothes earlier than we insert it into the dry-cleaning machine,” he stated. “Most cleaners don’t try this.”

That type of element isn’t low-cost. A laundered shirt that may price 99 cents to wash at a competitor begins round $Four at Parkway. The common order, which may embrace a number of objects, is about $35. Simon’s troops clear greater than 100,000 items a yr.

Larger quantity at larger costs helped propel Parkway to almost $4 million a yr in income and a mid-six-figure revenue for its proprietor earlier than the coronavirus pandemic hit. Simon stated most dry cleaners take into account $1 million in gross sales an excellent yr, however many end at half that quantity.

His 25 workers account for half his prices. The remainder is lease and utilities, then insurance coverage, advertising and different bills. His operation additionally contains 5 automobiles.

When the shutdowns got here in March, income tumbled about two-thirds earlier than climbing again. The corporate completed the yr with about $3 million in income, roughly breaking even.

“Weddings, proms, dinners and common office fits and attire got here to a tough cease,” Simon stated. “Virtually no one is sporting many, if any, garments that require dry cleansing. There aren’t any massive gatherings. There have been no gala fundraisers and balls. And naturally no inaugural events and occasions.”

Simon’s expertise in manufacturing got here into play through the pandemic when he re-engineered his manufacturing facility flooring, reassigning his seamstresses to stitch masks.

“We acquired into making hand-sewn masks earlier than the key producers and abroad suppliers might catch up,” he stated.

The federal authorities helped him through the downturn with $250,000 from the Paycheck Safety Program. Simon utilized for a further $250,000 within the subsequent spherical of reduction.

Simon, who has an engineering diploma from the College of Michigan and a grasp’s diploma from Harvard Enterprise College, calls dry cleansing “essentially the most difficult trade I’ve been concerned in.”

It’s a canvas for his laptop expertise and wonky administration concepts. Throughout one tour, he proudly pointed to his desktop laptop, the place he can observe his drivers at any given second, understanding what number of deliveries they’ve made and what number of stay.

He’s on the store daily, usually till late within the night.

“My holy grail is administration wandering round,” he stated. “An absentee proprietor on this enterprise is a recipe for failure or, at greatest, mediocrity.”

Paying shut consideration to element has helped cut back errors from 5 p.c to properly beneath 1 p.c, he stated. With fewer errors and ruined objects of clothes, his insurance coverage prices dropped.

To enhance high quality, Simon not too long ago invested $50,000 to improve the pc system and set up newer cleansing tools.

“The funding can impression your money stream quick time period, however in the long term this pays off in with the ability to cost extra and retain workers,” Simon stated. Greater than half of his 25 workers have been with him for the 20 years he has owned the enterprise.

Simon was pressured to maneuver from his longtime Connecticut Avenue headquarters to the North Bethesda location as a result of his landlord wished to develop the property.

Simon spent a number of million {dollars} on the transfer, together with $1 million for brand new tools and outfitting the manufacturing facility’s utility infrastructure.

“I financed it, however I went deep into my very own pockets, too,” Simon stated.

Simon grew up in Rochester, N.Y., the place his grandfather based an organization that invented and manufactured plastic crystals usually discovered on wristwatches.

He supposed to grow to be a musician however selected engineering the point he graduated from Michigan in 1978.

“I all the time knew I’d get a enterprise diploma,” he stated.

He pursued an MBA instantly afterward, which is uncommon as a result of most graduate enterprise colleges want candidates who’ve real-world expertise.

“I had labored on the household manufacturing facility and at locations like Chrysler throughout school, so I feel Harvard thought I had sufficient work expertise,” he stated.

Simon wished to strike out on his personal and bounced between jobs, together with an actual property title firm, his personal heating and air-con agency, a few Web start-ups and laptop programming.

He wished to be his personal boss, so he employed a enterprise dealer to discover a firm Simon might purchase so he might put his personal concepts to work.

“I informed the dealer, ‘No eating places and no retail,’ ” Simon stated. “I wished one thing with a novel place within the market, one thing with a proprietary services or products.”

When the dealer pitched Parkway, a Washington-area establishment based in 1926, Simon practically hung up the telephone.

“He satisfied me to at the least have a look at this cleaners,” Simon recalled. “He informed me it wasn’t your typical dry cleaner.”

Simon paid a go to and thought the dry cleaner was ripe for innovation.

“After wanting and digging in and feeling comfy with this enterprise having run the manufacturing a part of our household enterprise, I dove in.”

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