Parkway Cleaners fuels expansion via innovation and customized work

His firm has managed everything from White Home drapes to a long time-previous athletics uniforms to the elaborate tapestries that grace Embassy Row. Parkway has cleaned a quilt sewn by a former first girl and the flag adorning the booth at Ford’s Theatre exactly where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

Positioned within the 10,000 square ft of his new headquarters in North Bethesda is a local climate-controlled fur storage vault, an ozone space for smoke and odor elimination, and a person corner dedicated to cleansing elaborate window drapes and blinds.

“My bread and butter is ‘Mr. and Mrs. Working Home-owner,’ ” he claimed. “But we have a lot of other ways to provide clients and make funds.”

About 75 percent of his business enterprise is dependent on schedule pickups and deliveries to individuals 3,000 core customers by three complete-time motorists. The rest will come from stroll-ins with distinctive requests this kind of as a bridal gown or antique rug.

The company has two whole-time seamstresses who exchange buttons, sew up tears and do complete alterations.

Parkway’s promoting targets upscale neighborhoods such as Chevy Chase, McLean and Potomac, exactly where consumers demand — and are eager to fork out for — custom made procedure for their possessions.

“If I see a residence that sells for around $1.5 million, we would mail them a coupon and say we would love to be your dry cleaner,” Simon reported. “If they can pay for a $1 million residence, they almost certainly gown perfectly.”

Simon utilizes bar codes to document his customers’ preferences, this kind of as regardless of whether they want their sweater draped over a hanger or a crease in their trousers. “It’s a labor-intense business enterprise,” he said.

Parkway depends on a crew of proficient longtime workers to provide specialized services. “We spot- and hand-thoroughly clean garments prior to we insert it into the dry-cleaning equipment,” he reported. “Most cleaners really do not do that.”

That form of depth isn’t cheap. A laundered shirt that could cost 99 cents to cleanse at a competitor begins all around $4 at Parkway. The common get, which can consist of numerous items, is about $35. Simon’s troops clean more than 100,000 items a calendar year.

Larger quantity at larger rates served propel Parkway to approximately $4 million a 12 months in earnings and a mid-six-determine revenue for its proprietor right before the coronavirus pandemic strike. Simon mentioned most dry cleaners consider $1 million in gross sales a pretty excellent 12 months, but numerous finish at half that number.

His 25 staff account for 50 % his expenditures. The rest is rent and utilities, then insurance policy, internet marketing and other charges. His procedure also includes five motor vehicles.

When the shutdowns arrived in March, revenue tumbled by about two-thirds right before climbing back. The company completed the 12 months with about $3 million in profits, around breaking even.

“Weddings, proms, dinners and normal office satisfies and dresses came to a hard quit,” Simon claimed. “Almost no one is carrying a lot of, if any, clothes that call for dry cleaning. There are no significant gatherings. There have been no gala fundraisers and balls. And of training course no inaugural get-togethers and activities.”

Simon’s working experience in production arrived into perform in the course of the pandemic when he re-engineered his factory flooring, reassigning his seamstresses to sew masks.

“We received into building hand-sewn masks just before the big brands and overseas suppliers could catch up,” he mentioned.

The federal government helped him during the downturn with $250,000 from the Paycheck Defense Program. Simon applied for an more $250,000 in the next spherical of relief.

Simon, who has an engineering degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree from Harvard Organization School, calls dry cleansing “the most complicated sector I have been concerned in.”

It is a canvas for his computer competencies and wonky administration tips. In the course of 1 tour, he proudly pointed to his desktop computer system, wherever he can observe his drivers at any offered instant, knowing how many deliveries they have manufactured and how a lot of continue to be.

He is at the shop each individual day, often until late in the evening.

“My holy grail is management by wandering around,” he reported. “An absentee proprietor in this organization is a recipe for failure or, at very best, mediocrity.”

Spending close awareness to detail has assisted minimize blunders from 5 percent to well underneath 1 percent, he reported. With fewer blunders and ruined things of clothes, his insurance policy fees dropped.

To enhance high quality, Simon not long ago invested $50,000 to update the computer system procedure and install more recent cleansing equipment.

“The expense can influence your dollars movement quick expression, but in the prolonged operate this pays off in getting in a position to demand a lot more and keep staff,” Simon mentioned. Far more than half of his 25 personnel have been with him for the 20 a long time he has owned the organization.

Simon was pressured to move from his longtime Connecticut Avenue headquarters to the North Bethesda location due to the fact his landlord wanted to produce the home.

Simon used several million bucks on the transfer, like $1 million for new devices and outfitting the factory’s utility infrastructure.

“I financed it, but I went deep into my possess pockets, far too,” Simon explained.

Simon grew up in Rochester, N.Y., in which his grandfather launched a company that invented and created plastic crystals ordinarily observed on wristwatches.

He intended to develop into a musician but made a decision on engineering by the time he graduated from Michigan in 1978.

“I normally realized I would get a organization diploma,” he said.

He pursued an MBA quickly afterward, which is uncommon due to the fact most graduate business educational facilities like candidates who have serious-planet expertise.

“I experienced worked at the spouse and children manufacturing facility and at destinations like Chrysler during higher education, so I feel Harvard assumed I experienced enough do the job experience,” he mentioned.

Simon wished to strike out on his own and bounced concerning careers, including a actual estate title organization, his own heating and air conditioning organization, a few of Internet start out-ups and personal computer programming.

He required to be his own manager, so he employed a small business broker to obtain a corporation Simon could obtain so he could set his personal suggestions to work.

“I explained to the broker, ‘No eating places and no retail,’ ” Simon stated. “I required anything with a one of a kind situation in the marketplace, a thing with a proprietary product or support.”

When the broker pitched Parkway, a Washington-location institution started in 1926, Simon just about hung up the mobile phone.

“He persuaded me to at the very least look at this cleaners,” Simon recalled. “He informed me it was not your standard dry cleaner.”

Simon paid a check out and thought the dry cleaner was ripe for innovation.

“After on the lookout and digging in and sensation comfortable with this company acquiring run the manufacturing component of our family members business enterprise, I dove in.”