Jim Patrie, former president of DLI
James “Jim” Patrie, an Atlanta, GA, drycleaner and former president of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute, died Nov. 20 in Cleveland, TN, at the age of 82.
His first day as a drycleaner was not an encouraging one, he recalled in a later interview with National Clothesline. The plant did $25 in business and paid a $26 claim. But having put everything into the business and with three young children to raise, he and his wife, Dorothy, were determined to make it work. With one presser on the payroll and a 14-year-old niece helping out as an inspector, “work” was the operative word.
For Patrie, that work included a keen eye for detail, attention to efficiency and a demand for perfection. He instituted changes in plant operating procedures that caught the eye of Martinizing officials who sent other franchisees to the Patrie plant for training.
By 1974, he was ready for a new endeavor. With business partner Jack Stiles, a friend going back to his days in Japan, he started Fashion Care Cleaners, striving to stand out among other cleaners in the area with attention to public image, customer service and operational detail. He instituted two levels of service — Silver for standard service and Gold which provided special handling and packaging at an additional price. His goal was to increase customer expectations for drycleaning services — and then to meet those expectations.
By 1985, Fashion Care was ranked among Inc. magazine’s 500 fastest-growing privately held companies in the nation, reflecting a growth rate of 679 percent over the previous five years.
Helping the business to grow were the Patries’ three children, Ron, Kathy and David who worked in the business while growing up and eventually coming to work in the family business as adults. In addition, Patrie wanted all of his employees to view working at Fashion Care as more than just a job.
“If you create an environment for others to achieve success, you’ll ride the crest with them,” he said.
For his part, Patrie considered himself just another level of management. “I answer to somebody else,” he said in that interview, referring to the deep religious commitment that guided his approach to the business as well as life overall. He and his business partner, Stiles, had become Christians while in Japan and both carried that forward with them through life.
“Success is not required. Faith is.” Patrie said. “The bottom line is in His hand.”
“It’s a matter of stewardship,” he said. “You must take the gifts the Lord has given you and use them. I believe in running the business right and ethically, paying the people as well as I can, giving the most to the managers as I can and creating the best that I can.”
Patrie was also committed to the drycleaning industry. He was an active volunteer in trade associations, serving as a long-time member of the South Eastern Fabricare Association board of directors and later the board of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute (then called the International Fabricare Institute). He served as president of the institute in 1993-94.
Later he played a large role in Operation Running Clean, an institute project to support the Olympic torch’s 12-week journey across the United States on its way to the opening ceremonies for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
All along the route, cleaners pitched in to clean the pants, polo shirts and 150 mesh bags containing personal items of the 150-member support crew that kept the torch relay on the road. More than 30,000 pounds of laundry were cleaned.
As the torch neared the end of its journey, Patrie carried it for a leg of the relay through Warm Springs, GA. Afterwards, Fashion Care Cleaners took over to handle the torch crews' garments as the last of 65 cleaners to be involved in the project.
Patrie was preceded in death by his wife of 51 years, Dorothy, and his parents Ronald Edwin Patrie and Marceil Franz Patrie.
He is survived by his children: Ron Patrie and wife Vivien Patrie; Kathy Montalvo Rohsenberger and husband Carl Rohsenberger; and David Patrie; a brother, Jerry Patrie; eight grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
Memorial contributions in lieu of flowers may be made to Mount Paran Church of God Missions Fund, 2055 Mount Paran Road N.W., Atlanta GA 30327-2921.
Founder of Steiner-Atlantic
William K. “Bill” Steiner, founder of Steiner-Atlantic and Dryclean
Born in Chicago, IL, he displayed his entrepreneurial talents at an early age working as a “newsie” near the Illinois Central trains in Chicago. He held part time jobs in high school and worked his way through Baltimore Business college to earn his accounting degree.
While working as an accountant, he was asked by a client to help him book rock 'n roll shows around Baltimore. Enthralled with show business, he became a busy impresario, booking prominent stars such as Screamin' Jay Hawkins and the Kingston Trio at concerts around the country.
Tiring of the constant travel and the cold winters in the north, he moved to Miami in 1959, where he met his future wife, Sheila. They were married in 1961. He began a new career in the drycleaning business, building and selling several of his drycleaning plants, before co-founding Dryclean USA, which continues today under the leadership of son, Michael.
He also started Steiner-Atlantic Corp. in 1959 to distribute commercial laundry and dry leaning equipment, boilers, parts and service for companies of all sizes, both domestically and internationally. The company provides professional supervision and complete installations for resorts, hotels, cruise lines, drycleaners, coin-ops and industrial laundries. The company represents many of the top manufacturers in the industry, including Milnor, Chicago Dryer, ADC, Cleaver Brooks, Fulton, Union and Unipress. Steiner-Atlantic's primary market areas are Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America.
The company was recognized at last years Textile Care Allied Trades Association conference for its 50 years of membership and participation in the organization. His son, Michael, took the helm of the firm in 1987 and remains as CEO today.
Constantly seeking to improve drycleaning machinery to make the industry more environmentally friendly, he is the holder of several patents for drycleaning equipment and processes.
Outside of the industry, he was an avid reader of books on history and non-fiction, a member of the Manuscript Society, an aficionado of music in all forms, a doting father and grandfather and a devoted husband to Sheila.
As long-time members of Beth Torah Congregation in Aventura, FL, the couple provided for the educational center there in memory of their son, Jim, who perished in a tragic auto accident at the age of 21 in 1989.
Their generosity was also focused on the community at large. In honor of their generous and long-term support, the Jackson Memorial Hospital Foundation renamed a part of the hospital to honor them, calling it the Bill and Sheila Steiner Family North Lobby.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by four sons, Robert, Richard, Michael and David, and four grandchildren, Marc and Katie of San Francisco and Jacki and Jessica of Hallandale, FL. He is also survived by a younger brother, Tom.
Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the Beth Torah Congregation, Jackson Memorial Hospital or the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.