How I Got Here: Monika Manter

Current Position: Monika Manter has worked full-time for Balfurd Dry Cleaners in State College, Pennsylvania for nearly six years. She was the Customer Service Manager for four years before taking on the role as Vice President of Retail Operations approximately 18 months ago.

The Company: Balfurd Dry Cleaners, serving its community since 1927, was founded by Nathan Balfurd, a Russian immigrant. What started as a small pressing shop evolved into a full-service dry cleaner.

When synthetics became popular in the 1970s, Balfurd Dry Cleaners got into the linen and healthcare rental fields. They joined Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network (CRDN) in 2002 and began using alternative solvents in 2004. Manter said, “We were one of the first GreenEarth affiliates in Pennsylvania.”

“Currently, dry cleaning accounts for 15% of our business with the bulk of our work being in the linen and healthcare rental,” said Manter. “We built a separate linen plant in 2004 in Tipton, Pennsylvania and opened a Pittsburgh Service Center in 2014 to serve Western Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland.”

Balfurd Dry Cleaners is a member of Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) and Methods for Management (MFM). Manter serves on the board of Pennsylvania and Delaware Cleaners Association.

A Family Affair: As a fourth generation owner-operator, Manter’s family can trace its genesis in Balfurd Dry Cleaners all the back to her great grandfather who purchased a portion of the business from a gentleman (John Glatz) who bought out Nathan Balfurd. Since he had no heirs to pass his part of the business to, Glatz sold his shares to Arthur Scott Fogelsanger (Manter’s grandfather). “My grandfather passed away in 2014, and a few months later, I took my current position as Vice President,” recalled Manter. Her father, Bob Fogelsanger, is the President of Balfurd Dry Cleaners. Her husband, Dave Manter, serves as the Director of Operations for the Linen and Healthcare facility.

She Got Game: While attending East Stroudsburg University, (she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology), Manter also played the position of forward on their women’s basketball team. In the past, people would inquire why she did not attend her hometown school of Penn State University. “I always wanted to play basketball, but I was about six inches too short to play Division I basketball, so I ended up going to East Stroudsburg.” Manter believes getting out of town, moving away from home and living on her own was instrumental in her personal growth and development. Manter continued, “I came back which was a good thing, but I definitely think that was the best decision I could have made, going somewhere else to school and living elsewhere for a while.”

She also earned a Master’s in Secondary School Counseling from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Coming Home: After Manter had received her master’s degree, she landed a job in East Stroudsburg at a local middle school as a guidance counselor and basketball coach. At the time, she was engaged to Dave. “He had a great paying job but was totally miserable,” remembered Manter. “I loved my job, but we always wanted to go back to State College. State College is a really special place, super family-friendly, super safe; kind of in this bubble in Pennsylvania,” boasted Monika. She told Dave, “Let’s just do it. Life is too short to be miserable at work. We will figure it out. Let’s just move.” In the summer, the young couple picked up and moved to State College and began working at Balfurd; Dave on the linen side as a sales person and Monika on the dry cleaning side in customer service.

What was supposed to be a temporary gig changed when Bob brought her to an MFM meeting. It flipped her perspective and opened her eyes. She saw the dry cleaning business as a viable, rewarding and fulfilling career. “I never even applied for another guidance counselor job. Even though I said I was going to, it just never came to fruition, and that is how I got here.”

Management Style: Seeing her grandfather and father interact has laid the foundation for Manter’s business philosophy and how she deals with her staff. “I believe it’s really important to set expectations for people,” said Manter. “I’m a firm believer in giving your people some autonomy to accomplish the desired goals you have set before them.”

Recommended Reading: There isn’t too much spare time for reading, but Manter recently devoured a book that made a lasting impression on her. John L. Ward’s Perpetuating the Family Business: 50 Lessons Learned From Long Lasting, Successful Families in Business addresses the different phases and stages of family business succession. “This book is obviously super relevant for us,” exclaimed Manter. “As a result, my husband, my father and I have started doing quarterly meetings that force us to talk about uncomfortable yet necessary topics.”

Vision for the Future: In August, Balfurd Dry Cleaners will celebrate 90 years of being in business. They have numerous festivities planned to commemorate such an impressive milestone. Reaching the one hundred year mark is certainly in Manter’s sights. She acknowledges how imperative it is to stay relevant by changing with the times. “We’re not a huge cleaner by any stretch of the imagination, but we’re very progressive, and I think that’s what has made us successful. People are not dressing up like they used to, so it’s up to us to fill that void by finding out what our customers need and what they want.”

Personal: Manter, 30, has been married to Dave since July 2011 and lives in State College, Pennsylvania. They have three children: a three-year-old daughter and two-year-old twin sons. When she clocks out of Balfurd Dry Cleaners, Manter spends the bulk of her discretionary time with her young family. “I have three kids 3 and under, so not much time for hobbies,” said Manter. What little spare time Manter has is focused on sports; and more than just occasionally watching women’s basketball. “I’m a big Penn State football fan; also, I’m unsuccessfully trying to improve my golf game.”

About John Leano

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