Dry Cleaning Dynasty

Several months ago, I wrote two articles on how individuals got into the dry cleaning industry. I was interested in the fact that some people did not decide to go into the dry cleaning business when their family was in the business. Yet, they eventually ended up in the business! I have interviewed three people who had dry cleaning in their blood but decided not to join the family business at first.

Lynnette Watterson, Crystal Cleaning Center, San Mateo – Violet Janks emigrated from Johannesburg, South Africa. She had experience in fabrics and garment construction and the dry cleaning business was a good fit. She opened Crystal Cleaning Center in 1963.

Lynette was very young. She never really discussed entering into the business with her mom. When she was in high school, there was a Career Day. The FBI had a table and that really caught Lynnette’s attention.

The rest is history. They did a background check and Lynnette became a secretary for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Lynnette worked there for 17 years. While this was happening, Lynnette had met Bob, her husband, in 8th grade and they reconnected, married and had children. It became harder for Lynnette to deal with being away from the young children and trying to work full time as well. Her mother Violet was getting older and wanted to slow down. Lynnette wanted to be more hands on with her children. So Lynnette quit her job with the FBI. She was able to be there for the children and her mother was able to take some time off. A win-win for all. Lynnette thinks it is important for sons/daughters to work in the outside world first. She does not see her children coming into the business. However, her daughter does work Saturdays so maybe!

Scott Bell, Bryan’s Cleaners, Pasadena – Scott was always aware that working for yourself was the way to go. His grandfather, Mr. Bryan, started the business many years ago. At that time, Scott did not think the dry cleaning business was what he wanted. He wanted to find something to be excited about. His dad, as a son in law, went into the business. Scott, however, was not really interested in the family business. He attended Cal State Long Beach with a major of Business Administration. Once he graduated, he started selling cable TV in Whittier. His father suffered a heart attack and unfortunately was not able to perform his tasks for quite some time. Meanwhile, Scott’s grandfather felt that the accounts receivables were a mess and asked Scott to come in and straighten them out. After that, Mr. Bryan had Scott troubleshooting other problems and Scott was hooked. At this point, Scott does not see any of his three boys entering the business. They are still young so time will tell.

David Suber, Perfect Cleaners, Los Angeles – David’s family has been in the dry cleaning business. Multi -generation in Flint Michigan. David did all the things a dry cleaning kid did – foam hangers, sweeping, etc. David went away to school his first year in college. He came back and worked at the cleaners in his off time. The economy in Flint Michigan was part of the recession, so business was not good. David felt opening a cleaner in another part of the country would be good for business. David’s sister lived in Dallas and the family decided to open a dry cleaner there. David was prepared to move there and at the last moment changed his mind. David had some friends in Denver and decided he would go there. He worked in a few dry cleaners there but was still looking for his ultimate destination. He connected with a friend who was bartending and was making good money. So he started as a bus boy, waiter, bartending, etc., and ended up working in catering with the Sheraton and Hyatt Hotels!

A friend contacted him and told him he needed to come to LA. David ended up the Catering Manager at the Hyatt in Long Beach. From there, he helped his cousin open eight restaurants.

In 1998, he decided to return to what he knew…dry cleaning! He felt there were no quality cleaners in West Los Angeles at that time. So he found a location. His dad always wanted to make sure that you are not “buying a job,” so open a big plant. The rest is history!

Hope you enjoyed this inside look at the industry. Business has been slow. Hopefully, the fall will bring many dirty clothes!!