Spin It to Win It (Conclusion)


(Photo: ©iStockphoto/JannHuizenga)

Tim Burke |

Market overflows with opportunities for sudsy success

CHICAGO — Wash....dry....fold....and bank some green!

Making healthier profits is the goal of many drycleaning businesses. Competitive market forces drive owners to look around for new income streams. The buzzword getting spun in the air today is “diversifying.” That means offering services beyond traditional dry cleaning.

Many operators already offer wash and fold. But there are many who don’t. To the latter, we simply say this: It’s worth checking the action.


On the surface, selling wash-dry-fold service is a matter of pure convenience to your customer via pickup and delivery. But folded into that model is the ability to offer the time-savings aspect of “doing your laundry” that many people despise.

Millennials, it would seem, just by their casual style of dress, could be one of the main recipients of the service today.

“Wash and fold service,” says Steven Toltz, president of Dependable Cleaners in Denver, “is the way we are reaching out to young people who don’t care as much about dry cleaning like previous generations did.”

During a phone interview, Toltz shared his analysis of the wash-dry-fold segment and his business plan to reach potential customers.

“I want them to become familiar with our brand,” Toltz explains. “We sell our customer on time savings. The laundry is neatly folded and can be delivered and,” he adds with a chuckle, “if we could put it away in the dresser in their house for them, we would do that, too.”

What is the advantage of offering wash-and-fold service?

“We have the dry-store labor already — so we put in place washers and dryers in all our stores,” Toltz says. “As soon as we offered the service, we got business.”

And it isn’t all walk-in. He says that about 20% of his total drycleaning business is route-driven but he’s not sure how much of that is wash-and-fold, as it’s not exclusive.


We like to laugh, and so do you. We asked the cleaners interviewed to share a few surprising and humorous tales from the wash-dry-fold experience.

John-Claude Hallak, president of Hallak Cleaners in New York City, relates this: “Once I received a wash-and-fold order that contained a silk-crepe Armani suit. This was a dry-clean-only ensemble with a value in excess of $2,500. Needless to say, we did not wash and fold it! When the drycleaning price was quoted, the client requested that we return the suit unprocessed.”

Rita Foley, president of Regency Cleaners in Durham, N.C., says, “Having the new hires, especially guys, fold a load of young college women’s clothes is a hoot. The thongs get them every time! There is no correct way to fold a thong. But they sure try.”

She shares this tale of cartoon happiness: “We clean the power company linesmen’s clothes when there are weather events. The power company gets our big wdf department up on the grid, and we bring in the crew. So, to fold a bag of power company linesmen’s clothes and see that they are wearing Tweety Bird boxers can be quite humorous.”

Last but not least: “Pulling a Patagonia jacket out of the dryer in about 45 pieces was quite interesting. Patagonia (or a knock-off) uses glue on the seams, then says to dry on the care label. The glue definitely didn’t hold,” Foley says.

Some surprises and humor naturally can be expected in any freshly developing market segment.

Foley believes that wash-dry-fold will continue to grow: “We have become a society of ‘now.’ There are more dual working parents whose kids are involved in after-school activities. Marketing to this sector is key, as long as the marketing is accurate and the expectation of the service explained.”

Hallak seems to concur on the future of the trend: “As people’s time becomes an ever-scarcer commodity, I expect this to grow — especially in the middle market.”

If this segment is revealing to you an “agitation” toward growth, then “grow get it.” Many dry cleaners who pick up and deliver wash-dry-fold business discover an increase in dollar traffic right to their cash registers.

One tip to keep on your dial if you are thinking of jumping in: “Understand the logic before getting involved,” shares Hallak. “Separating lights and darks — regulars and delicates — and getting it all back together in the end!”

“What you name your service is important based on your region,” adds Foley. “Wash and fold? Fluff ’n’ fold? Wash-dry-fold? Be creative. This is an area where we can still be true entrepreneurs.”

Can you afford not to check out this service? The opportunity to suds up your revenue beckons, almost as loudly as, say, a lineman’s Tweety-Bird shorts!

Miss Part One? You can read it HERE.

About the author

Tim Burke

American Drycleaner


Tim Burke is the editor of American Drycleaner. He can be reached at 312-361-1684 or [email protected]


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