How I Got Here: Greg Sarkissian

Current Position: Greg Sarkissian is the owner and CEO of Presto Cleaners in Glendale, California.

The Company: Founded by Sarkissian in 2006, Presto Cleaners is an eco-friendly establishment known for their attention to detail and excellent customer service. “I’ve always been proud of the team at Presto Cleaners and the work they’ve done through the years,” said Sarkissian. “Not only are they passionate about their work, they are also passionate about their connection with each other and our customers.”

Cece Reynolds serves as the store manager and has been with Presto Cleaners for nearly a decade. Sarkissian says that, “She has been the backbone of the store for years and has done an amazing job managing the team and our customers.”

Sergio Guzman is their spotter and has been with the company since day one. “He has been a priceless asset from the beginning,” Sarkissian boasted. “He’s smart, knows his craft and is always looking for ways to improve himself.”

In the Genes: Born and raised in Los Angeles, Sarkissian comes from a family of entrepreneurs. Rubina, his mother, designs and remodels high-end homes and residential complexes. Vahik, his father, owns Sun Dairy Company (maker of the renowned Abali yogurt brand). Together, both of his parents operate Kadbanou Gourmet Kitchen, (a frozen food business that caters to Middle Eastern and Persian palates).

The Wonder Years: While growing up, Sarkissian admits to being of the inquisitive nature. “I loved taking things apart and figuring out how they worked,” he said. “That, I definitely got from my father.” A product of a close-knit family, Sarkissian credits mom and dad for allowing him to flourish. “My parents are why I am the person I am today.”

Working It: At the University of Southern California (USC), Sarkissian studied psychology and business. Shortly after graduation, he launched Presto Cleaners. “I was only 22, had practically no dry cleaning experience and had to learn fast,” recalls Sarkissian.

While getting Presto off the starting blocks and running, Sarkissian also worked at his father’s dairy company but didn’t get seriously involved there until 2009. In 2010, he went back to USC for his MBA as a part-time student. “During those three years, I was a student and worked at both the dry cleaners and in the family business,” said Sarkissian.

Upon completing his MBA, Sarkissian gravitated towards running the family dairy company and maintains an advisory role with their frozen food business. A combination of internet technology (remote logins, cameras, etc.) and the trust he has in his team at Presto Cleaners affords him the luxury of not having to be there on a daily basis.

It Takes A Village: A lot of the business lessons Sarkissian has learned came the hard way, through trial and error. Managing his career and different business ventures have always been a balancing act for Sarkissian. “Having to constantly change gears from one business to another has been a challenge I still deal with today, but thankfully I have great people around me for support.”

He attributes much of his success as a dry cleaner to his mentor, Andre Guilanians. “Over the years, he’s taught me so much and helped more times than I can count,” he said.

His father, Vahik, has also played an invaluable role in helping Sarkissian manage a business, especially in the first year. “He’s been the single greatest influence in my life,” said Sarkissian. He continued, “He laid the foundation for everything with his guidance, advice and support.”

Sarkissian regards Ray Rangwala of Esteem Cleaners in Pasadena, California as a fantastic friend and mentor. “He is gold-hearted, intelligent and always looking for ways to help others.”

“Narbeh at Palace Cleaners in Glendale has helped us out countless times whenever we’ve had any sort of equipment issues,” Sarkissian said.

The last “shout-out” goes to the Southern California Cleaners Association (SCCA). He believes in growing and getting better; one must never stop learning. “If you think you’ve learned everything you need to know, you’re done,” Sarkissian stated matter-of-factly. He continued, “Always surround yourself with people better than you. This is one of the reasons I love the SCCA.”

Keeping It Real: Realizing that everyone struggles from time to time and that everyone’s situation is different has helped Sarkissian stay humble and grounded. “I’ve learned that anyone in the dry cleaning industry who says it’s been a smooth road is full of (expletive),”

Sarkissian boldly declared. “One struggle that most of us went through was the 2008 crash. Managing that was tricky, but we managed to make it through.”

Reach for the Stars: “I believe if you’re not growing, sooner or later you’ll shrink or those around you will outgrow you,” he said. Sarkissian sets goals for himself along with attached deadlines. His goals range from realistic to bold and audacious. “If I don’t meet those goals, I make sure to look back and realize why I didn’t, so I can learn from my mistakes.”

Success Principles: Sarkissian lives by a business methodology that is three-fold and consists of discipline, attentiveness and flexibility. Each trait is a headline of sorts for a personal manifesto.*

Advice to Live By: Having the right people on one’s team is what Sarkissian thinks is paramount to success. “If you don’t think you have your ‘A-team,’ do whatever you need to do to get there.” An advocate of training, listening, empowering and caring, Sarkissian said to “keep the lines of communication open and care about them.” He continued, “If you care about your staff, they’ll care about you and their work.”

Forecasting the Industry: “Regarding the customer-facing end of the business, convenience is king,” said Sarkissian. “In a world with Amazon, Uber, Postmates, digital streaming services, smartphones and cars that do the driving for you, consumers gravitate towards services that do the legwork for them.” Sarkissian is of the opinion that quality dry cleaners who develop routes and smartphone integration will ultimately replace mom and pop shops across the United States.

He surmises that on the back end, as delivery dry cleaning develops, smaller operations will fade. “As I see it, larger warehouse-style operations will have a growing role as the store-front becomes less relevant in the marketplace.”

Exit Strategy: With regards to his future, an optimistic Sarkissian is confident that the sky is the limit. However, he has braced and prepared himself to walk away from his ownership stake in Presto Cleaners. “As much as I’ve enjoyed having a dry cleaner, I think I’ll eventually have to make the tough decision to leave the industry entirely and focus on my family’s business.

Personal: When he has the time to remove his various business hats, Sarkissian enjoys skiing, mountain biking, curling and photography. He plays in a dodgeball league for fun and also maintains a collection of vintage automobiles. Sarkissian, 34, is single and lives in Downtown Los Angeles.

cover photo :

Pictured here at Presto Cleaners (left to right) are Cecily Reynolds, store manager; Sergio Guzman, spotter and Greg Sarkissian.

About John Leano

John Leano can be reached by e-mail: Leano@BryansCleaners.com or Twitter: @JohnLeano or www.facebook.com/johngleano