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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Not Just A Dry Cleaner

Over the years, I have figured out that sometimes we are more than just a dry cleaner.  Sometimes, we are part of a story.

Much of the time, our customers drop off their express bags with their everyday items.  We clean and press their clothes with pride and care, and they return to pick them up.  And we love doing that.  But then there are the times, like this one, when the garment that is brought in is….well, so much more than your everyday khakis.

Steve Plantone, manager of the A Cleaner World in Hickory, recently sent me this photo:

I knew there was a story, and I just had to hear it.  Steve told me that a customer brought in this dress.  It was her grandmothers.  She had just passed away.  The dress was 70 years old and had been folded up and sitting in a box for years.  He said that while it was in pretty good shape, there were a number of stains at the bottom.  The family was just going to throw it away but the granddaughter wanted to save it in case her daughter or granddaughter ever wanted to wear it. 

As he does with every garment, Steve cleaned and pressed it with pride and care and returned it to the customer.  We’re so pleased.  The dress turned out beautifully.  And someday when the daughter or granddaughter wears it, we will be part of the story.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Let’s Dress Up More

In March, I expressed my disappointment with how casual our society has become. So casual, in fact, that I saw someone wear running shorts and flip flops to church. As I typed my ramblings into blogger, my mind started wondering back in time – to things like how my mom dressed to go to work at her banking job, my sister and I wearing dresses to school, how we always dressed up for church, and always getting a special outfit for Easter Sunday.

My mom tells me this was taken in 1976. I would have been 8, and my sister would have been 6.

I love how traditions are passed down through generations. The first Easter Matt and I were married, he inquired about a receipt from Belk. I explained it was my Easter dress. I still remember the puzzled look on his face. He got the long dissertation, and fifteen years later, I still get a new dress for Easter Sunday. Now Gray gets a new outfit too.

And even though Matt has taken to wearing jeans to church many Sunday mornings, he wears a suit on Easter Sunday. I wish we all did this a bit more often. In fact, I really wish I could start a movement.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Grease and a Custom Dress Shirt

A few weeks ago, I got to call Mike Taylor, Managing Partner of our A Cleaner World Roanoke Division and tell him that one of his customers won $100 free cleaning just for liking us on Facebook! I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I like talking to Mike. So whenever I call him, we always chat for a bit.

I think of Mike as a dry cleaning superhero. He should have a special costume with a cape. With over 35 years of experience in the dry cleaning industry, he’s tackled just about everything. In fact, even car grease is no match for Mike.

He recently had a long-time regular customer bring in a fairly well pressed dress shirt with grease all over it. When Mike asked what happened, the customer told him that he had gotten a flat tire on the way to the beach – and he was wearing one of his custom-made French cuff dress shirts. In an effort to deal with the problem quickly, the customer confessed to taking the grease covered shirt to a discount cleaner at the beach. He needed to know – could Mike save his $200 dress shirt?

Mike put on his cape and got to work. He pre-spotted the shirt with a de-greaser and then washed it, let it drip dry, then dry cleaned it, then rewashed it and pressed it…..and voila…good as new! Of course, Mike made it sound super easy, but I’m guessing he spent a fair amount of time working his magic. When the customer returned, he was just amazed. He was certain the shirt was ruined. All in a day’s work for Mike. But still when I imagine him at work, I think of him wearing a cape, and for some reason I’m picturing it to be red.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kids and Laundry

How early can you teach your children to do laundry? I’ve been wondering this given how much laundry our family creates. Let me rephrase that – given how much laundry my son Gray and I create. As I thought about whether he was ready to learn, I remembered a conversation I had years ago with Crystal (Nickel, member of the A Cleaner World office staff) and decided to talk to her about it again to refresh my memory.

My first question – how old were your kids when they started doing their own laundry? Her daughter Stephanie was in third grade, and her son Mark was in first grade. In fact, she remembered that Mark had to push a chair or stepstool up to the washer to reach the controls. Gray is also in the first grade, and we have a front load washer so no stepstool required here. But thinking more about Gray, I was curious about how they handled it. She said they were good sports about it – they had an agreement up front, and there was no fighting about it. She actually thinks they kind of enjoyed it. So here are her tips on how she made it work for her family:

• Keep it simple.
• Wash everything in cold water.
• Give them a marked measuring cup and point out the maximum fill point.
• Make marks on the washer and dryer so they know what settings to use.
• Stick with everyday clothes – don’t have them do delicates or good clothes.
• Have them fold the clothes and put them away as soon as they are dry.
• Initially have them do their own laundry. Once everyone is comfortable, they can combine items and take turns so that someone has a day off.

Of course there were a few hiccups along the way, like the red item that snuck in and created a pink load. Then during the high school years when they wanted to wear something that was dirty. But overall she said it taught them responsibility, cleanliness, and how to plan ahead. It also made her life a bit easier given all the responsibilities a working mom has. And as Crystal said to me, “it is the gift that keeps on giving.” So says Mark’s wife who has thanked Crystal many times for teaching him how to do laundry.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Do I Have Too Many Clothes?

I do it on a regular basis. I’m guessing you probably do it too. You stand in your closet (which is full of clothes) and think “I have nothing to wear.” Whenever I say it out loud, my husband makes some sort of noise – a cross between a snort and a sigh – and then proceeds to point out things that still have the tags on them. I inevitably pass up those items and turn to an old standby instead.

It seems that I’m not alone. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, only 20% of the clothes in the average person’s closet are worn on a regular basis. But why? An article on Inside Out Style gives numerous reasons as to why – from keeping garments way too long to holding on to clothes that don’t fit and on and on. But when I read reason number 7, I realized this was me. The author, Imogen Lamport, says, “You have lots of clothes, but they’re all the same, 20 pairs of black trousers, 2 dozen pairs of jeans…….you keep buying the same garment over and over, but forget about creating outfits.”

It’s an interesting diagnosis given my propensity to hate clutter and habit of getting rid of stuff. Why can I not apply the same logic to my closet? I fear to get the answer to this question might require therapy. But the bottom line is this – I just need to purge. The best way to do this is to take emotion out of it and just attack my closet using these three questions:

Does it fit in with my daily life?

Do I love it?

Is it comfortable?

If I can answer yes to all three, then I need to ask myself this additional question if I have multiples of the same thing – how many do I really need? Then the rest I need to donate. Period. If you have a similar problem, you might want to give it a try as well. Even better, if you’ve overcome the ‘too many clothes but nothing to wear syndrome’, please share your tips. You can do so below or on Facebook, Twitter, or G+.
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