National Clothesline
The amazing people of drycleaning
There are a lot of amazing people in the drycleaning industry and one of the distinct
advantages of covering the latest news for it every month is that we often get a firsthand
chance to talk to them. Perhaps what is more amazing is that there never seems to be a
shortage of more amazing people to come along with more stories to tell.
This month, we cover two interesting individuals with extraordinary tales. One drycleaning
company (Ernest Winzer Cleaners of New York) was lauded recently with a
2018 Tony Honors
for Excellence in the Theatre
 award from the Tony Awards Administration Committee.
No, long-time owner Bruce Barrish and his third-generation family business (they purchased
it from the Winzers in 1952) wasn’t singled out for a riveting on-stage performance in a musical
production called
Too Much Starch! Instead, the company was honored for satisfying the
demands of countless Broadway stage productions since its inception in 1908.
To put that in perspective, the Tony Awards are celebrating their 72nd annual awards show
this year; Ernest Winzer Cleaners has been around for 110 years and they’ve cleaned the
costumes of just about every conceivable show ever to grace the bright lights of the Theater
District in Midtown Manhattan.
“It’s a unique thing,” Barrish admitted. “People say to me, ‘Has this every happened before?’
Obviously not. It if took 110 years I don’t think it’s going to happen again, either.”
On the other end of the spectrum is a story that would probably be dramatic enough for its
own stage production. This month’s profile is on
Flor Castillo, who faced a long, uphill struggle
when her family immigrated from Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico to the U.S. when she was only 9
years old.
She comes from a family of women who all know a thing or two about overcoming hardship
and finding success. Flor’s grandmother earned a scholarship in Mexico and became the first
anesthesiologist in the small town where she lived. She started her own clinic and helped
deliver many townfolk, including her grandchildren.
Then, her daughter followed in her footsteps, coming to America and working her way
through school to become a registered nurse, paving the way for Flor to continue the tradition,
though there were some twists and turns along the way.
When Flor decided she was ready to buy the drycleaning business she had worked at for
almost a decade, the deal fell apart. Of course, that wasn’t the ending of the tale. For the rest
of the story, go now and read about her.
Getting ready for that final customer
Amidst the daily concerns serving your business’s next customer, it’s easy to forget about
your business’s final customer. That customer won’t be coming to you with a bundle of dirty
laundry. No, that customer, you hope, will be coming with a bundle of money to buy your
That day may seem far in the future, but whether it comes next month or next year or is a
decade or more away, it’s something to think about now. And while it’s a different proposition
than serving customers day to day, there are some similarities.
Cleaners are often advised to step outside their role as owner/manager and look at the
business from the customer’s point of view. This involves the curb appeal of the storefront,
cleanliness of the counter area and other “first impression” factors. Those will be important for
that final customer, too, but there’s more. Step back and ask, “Would I buy this business from
Curiously, the things that make your business attractive to potential customers are many of
the things that also make it look good to a potential buyer. So whether you plan to sell soon or
at some undetermined point in the distant future, it pays both short term and long to make
improvements and modifications that increase both the value and appeal of your business.
Ask yourself: Would your business look like a solid investment to a buyer? Or would that new
owner be buying old problems that need yet more investment to fix? Perhaps the reasons for
selling are the very reasons that would make a potential buyer back off.
If you hope to receive maximum value for your business, consider other things that buyer
will be looking for, things that go beyond what drycleaning customers are interested in. For
example, equipment in good operating condition with at least a few years of life left; a long-
term lease; financial records that are accurate and can be verified; employees who are paid “on
the books;” a point-of-sale computer.
All of these are issues to address now as part of your exit plan. Your mission to maximize the
value of your business before putting it on the market begins today no matter when that search
for the last customer begins.