It usually takes about an hour and a half to complete a 35- to 40-mile race for amateur cyclists who seek the glory and prize purse that accompanies winning first place, but for Marcello Rodio, it’s more about the journey than the destination.
“Not another feeling comes close to the feeling you get when you’re on a bike. Nothing,” explained the owner of Moline Kronberg, located in Upper Montclair, NJ. “The best thing is, I understand that I’m not getting paid for it, but that’s what makes it so much better… because you’re doing it more for the love of it and have nobody telling you what to do.”
“You start together, but you just break away from everybody and go at your own pace. I tend to do better that way,” he said. “I’ll do some three-foot jumps. I don’t think about it. I just go for it. Some people think about it. I don’t.”
When taking part in a faster-paced road race, the strategy shifts considerably. Being in front is not always the desirable position, at least when it comes to the early part of the race.
“There are times that you go 30 miles an hour or 32 miles an hour. You cannot sustain that for more than a few minutes,” he said. “In one of those races, you feed from each other. There are always people taking pulls, meaning being pulled by people in the front. The person in the front always works harder. If there are 100 people in the race and you’re in the middle of the pack, you’re saving a lot of energy.”
In the past handful of years, Marcello has pedaled in about 300 races, averaging 40 to 50 races a year. He often races as part of Team Montclair Bikery. When you compete as a team member, the strategy often shifts.
“There are some races that are better for one person or another,” Marcello noted. “So, we kind of know each other and we say, ‘This is a good race for Joe. Joe is a good sprinter and we think nobody’s going to break away from the field. We’re just going to work for him at the end. We’ll hold the big pace — high velocity — and then at the end he’ll just jump from behind us and sprint to the finish.’”
In other words, if everybody works together toward a common goal, there is a greater chance at success.
That team racing strategy also holds true for Marcello’s drycleaning business.
At Moline Kronberg, there are no shortcuts. High quality is the ultimate goal and it requires a lot of effort from every employee in order to make that happen.
The company itself is over 100 years old. Marcello and his wife, Patricia, bought it 22 years ago when it was already long established as a fine cleaners, but the Rodios wanted to take it to another level.
“People started to realize, from day one, how we took care of things,” he recalled. “Right away, we changed the way the cleaning was done, the packaging, the pressing, everything. Everything changed overnight. We wanted people to see the difference right away and the word spread fast.”
The initial changes were important, but Marcello has found the best way to keep improving is to never be satisfied. The training process never ends.
“Equipment just gets you to a degree, but then you need the knowledge and the effort and the training you put into your workers on how you want things,” he added. “I took training anywhere I could, whenever I could see somebody. You learn from anybody. You never think that you go into a place and you already know it all. That’s something I learned a long time ago.”
As a result of that drive to continually improve, Moline Kronberg has been a member of America’s Best Cleaners for a handful of years. One way they are able to maintain the caliber of quality needed to be in the group is to double up the inspection process.
“The spotter cleans the clothes. They come out of the machine. There is an inspector that handles the clothes to make sure everything is clean, delinted, no threads hanging, no stains, if there are minor repairs to be done,” Marcello explained.
Garments that are not approved, go where they need to in order for the problem to be fixed. Garments that are approved, however, move forward to the pressing station.
“After they are pressed, there is another inspector that checks the pressing and will check for stains again,” he added. “When the final inspector gets the clothing it should be very, very close to 100%. Very little goes back to the spotter after it’s pressed.”
Such attention to detail has caught the eye of many Moline Kronberg’s customers, including some celebrities.
The company’s web site is peppered with interesting testimonials, including John MacLean, previously on the New Jersey Devils’ coaching staff (now an assistant coach with the Carolina Hurricanes) and Stephanie George, a former editor of In Style magazine who is executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Time, Inc. Also on that list is TV personality Stephen Colbert.
“He comes in and asks me how I’m doing, is everything OK… and I say, ‘My son didn’t like your show last night.’ I’ll make a joke with him like that,” Marcello laughed.
Having funny conversations with American celebrities is a nice bonus, but it’s a long way from his humble origins in Campania, Italy, where he was born in 1964.
While still a toddler, Marcello’s family moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, where he grew up speaking Spanish (and some English) at school and Italian when his family got together.
“I was actually brought up with old Italian traditions… the food, the gatherings, the holidays, making the wine, making the sauce for the year, making the salamis for the season, killing the pork and making the sausages,” he recalled.
He was also brought up with traditional Italian values emphasizing respect, love of family and a strong work ethic which was echoed by his father, a barber, and mother, a dressmaker.
When Marcello was 14, his family moved to Staten Island, NY, to be closer to his uncle, Carmelo, who owned Revere Cleaners. His parents also hoped the move would mean better opportunities for their children.
Marcello spent his high school and college years learning about drycleaning and was impressed by the work ethic of Americans.
“People just put their head down and moved forward. They did what they had to do,” he said. “I remember the pressers who used to work for my uncle. In the holiday season, they used to have second jobs at night just because they wanted to do extra stuff for the holidays.”
When Marcello was only 21, his uncle helped him start his own self-contained Revere Cleaners plant. About that time, he met Patricia for the first time at a National Cleaners Association management seminar.
“We started talking. We started to exchange ideas and throw things around,” he said. “I said to my uncle that I wanted to look for something that had a little more weight.”
In 1991, the newly married couple opted to purchase Moline Kronberg out in the New Jersey suburbs.
“The toughest thing was when I bought this place I didn’t have money,” he emphasized. “I hoped it was going to work, otherwise it would put me in the red in a really bad way. I said to myself, ‘If I get into this, I’m going to make it one way or another. Even if I hit it with a hammer, I’m going to make this happen.’”
Success did not come easy. Especially at the start, there were quite a few sacrifices.
“You put so much out at the beginning, that you cannot see how your kids are growing up. You see it, but you don’t. That’s something that I regret,” he said.
He may have missed out on some early family memories, but Marcello did exactly what his father wanted to do: give his kids the opportunity to follow their dreams. He feels fortunate to be doing just that.
“I love to do what I do. I love to do what I do here in my store. I love to do what I do on my bike. I love to do what I do on the weekends when I go to a race,” he said. “I don’t know what else I would do if I didn’t have to come to work. I feel that work is good. Like anything else, if you like what you do it’s easier.”
Whether pedaling uphill or downhill or keeping track of the day-to-day operations of his business, Marcello only knows how to race full speed ahead. He has retained the work ethic that he was taught as a kid and sometimes worries if America is no longer doing the same.
“I hope that America keeps going in the right direction,” he noted. “I’m very American. I love America. I don’t see a lot of work ethic — the work attitude — like I did when I got here. I would like to see people going back to that because it made a bigger and better America.”
The solution may be as simple as following the philosophy of his cycling team: everybody must work together in order to reach their destination.
“Everybody has to put in an effort to get going, from the government to us,” he said. “We have an obligation of going forward and not to just sit back and wait to see what we can get. We have to go out and do our part.”