Current Position: Rob Parker, 25, is a district manager at Dependable Cleaners.
The Company: Dependable Cleaners celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. It is headquartered in Quincy, Massachusetts and has 175 employees. The business has thirteen locations, two full-service laundromats, Style by Dependable couture cleaning, plus free pick up and delivery to over fifty towns across Massachusetts.
All In the Family: Founded in 1944 by Don and Marion Fawcett, Dependable Cleaners has been owned and operated by the same family for three generations.
Fred and Don Jr. followed in their parent’s footsteps and were the second generation to own and operate Dependable Cleaners.
After Fred’s passing and Don Jr’s retirement, Christa Hagearty (daughter of Don Jr.) took the helm of the family business and is the company’s President and CEO. Carlyn Parker serves as the Director of )perations at Dependable Cleaners.
Rob Parker takes pride in being part of the next wave tasked with extending the Dependable Cleaners empire. “I am lucky enough to be the fourth generation in the company and I get to work with my mom, Carlyn and Aunt Christa every day,” Parker stated. “Many other businesses haven’t made it past three generations and I hope we can keep the legacy going for another eighty years!”
The Gig: As the district manager for Dependable’s south district for the last three years, Parker oversees seven dry stores, the mother plant that produces the work for those locations and three of Dependable’s eight delivery drivers. “I have a team of about sixty people in my district stores and I am seriously lucky to have such an amazing team,” said Parker. “I can say that for our whole company, not just the stores I oversee; we work with a lot of awesome people!”
The Early Years: Parker was always around family where he grew up in Weymouth, Massachusetts. “Some of my best moments were swimming at my grandparents’ house or hanging out with everyone,” Parker reminisced. “I will always remember our family trips with all my grandparents, my family and all my aunts, uncles and cousins.”
Self-admittedly a “chatty, outgoing kind of guy,” Parker recalls being that way even as a youth. “I liked and still do, talking to anybody I could and meeting new people,” he said. “One of my favorite parts of my job is talking to people; whether that’s employees, clients, potential clients, I love it.”
“I played a lot of baseball as a kid from tee ball through high school and grew up skiing and snowboarding in New Hampshire with family,” he said. “I still love baseball and snowboarding, although I don’t get to do enough of either these days.”
Getting Started in the Biz: With Dependable Cleaners being a family affair, Parker frequently found himself in and around their stores since he could walk.
His first assignment at Dependable Cleaners was collecting the quarters from the laundromats with his mom, Carlyn. “This may not have seemed like a big deal at the time, but it has become a core memory for me growing up and something I loved at the time because I got to hang out with her at work,” Parker recalled. “Now I am really glad we have card systems in both our laundromats; I don’t miss the quarters.”
“I ‘officially’ started on the counter when I was thirteen years old and would ride my bike to the store after school for work,” said Parker. It was enough to keep him engaged in the garment care industry after being bit by the dry cleaning bug. He has worked several other jobs in restaurants, Dairy Queen and coached youth baseball, but has always kept his foot in the door at Dependable Cleaners.
Higher Education: After going through a vocational culinary arts program in high school, Parker enrolled at Johnson and Wales University, graduated with an associate’s degree in culinary arts and began the bachelor’s program for food and service management.
“At this point, three semesters in while working in restaurants, I began to realize I couldn’t see a future for myself in restaurants,” said Parker. Upon concluding that he wanted to discontinue his current coursework, Carlyn gave her blessing under one condition — work at Dependable Cleaners “until you figure out what you want to do.”
Sweet Spot: After leaving Johnson and Wales University and returning to Dependable Cleaners, Parker was diligently trying to figure out the direction he wanted to go in. As he stayed with the company longer and longer, Parker’s mindset shifted and he precisely realized that a career at Dependable Cleaners was what he had been seeking. “There have obviously been some bumps along the way, but it is one of the best decisions I have made,” said an elated Parker. “I’m happy, I love my job, the people I work with and the people from the industry I get to see and talk to. Right now, I think I am where I am supposed to be.”
Leadership Style: “I am not the typical boss/manager; I’m more of a ‘Bill Belichick-esque’ kind of leader, where if you do your job, you’re not going to hear from me,” said Parker of his management philosophy while referencing the legendary New England Patriots football coach.
Parker must convey to his staff the importance of enjoying what they do. “I tell all my employees to make sure they have fun at work,” Parker said. “Imagine going to a place for 40-plus hours a week of your life, week after week and not having fun.”
Mentors: Parker swiftly points out that he has been the beneficiary of industry giants that have come before him and continue to pour into his life and nurture his career trajectory.
“My mom, Carlyn Parker, is incredibly smart and has a crazy amount of knowledge for life and the dry cleaning industry,” boasted Parker. “I report to her and see her daily, which is pretty cool. I’ve learned so much from her and she’s definitely my biggest role model in life and at work.”
He also speaks very highly of his aunt, Christa Hagearty. “She has given me so much knowledge, coaching and opportunities with work and I will always be grateful for that,” said Parker.
Grandfather and industry veteran Don Fawcett continues to be a guiding force and role model in Parker’s life. They meet for “one-on-ones” and dinner regularly.
One person not from Dependable Cleaners that Parker considers family is “unofficial uncle” Mark Albrecht of The Route Pro’s. “He has worked with us at Dependable for over ten years and helped us grow our routes and train and develop our people,” said Parker. “Mark has done so much for my professional development and become someone I talk to regularly on good days and bad and I am truly grateful for him.”
Best Advice Received: A quote his grandfather often says is, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.” “I even have this tattooed on me to remind myself that even if it stinks right now or something you’re going through is tough, you are either going to win, or you are going to learn,” said Parker. “Both are valuable!”
Lesson Learned: Parker said if he had to start over again, he probably wouldn’t change a thing. He believes that everything happens for a reason. “I don’t have any real regrets, but I definitely would’ve listened to my mom more,” quipped Parker. “The older I get, the more I realize she is usually right.”
Pearls of Wisdom: Admitting that success is difficult to define, Parker has thoughts that defy his youth. “For some, it’s fame or money, or for some, it’s a house, a family and health,” Parker mused. “I think you need to be happy and love what you do to be successful. I also believe you get what you put into it; success isn’t just handed out; you have to earn it.”
Industry Challenge: Having attended numerous industry-related events, Parker has noticed he is usually the youngest person in the room by the years. “I have met a few that are getting involved in the business, but by far, I am in the minority,” Parker lamented over the disparity. “In my daily life, many people my age honestly have no idea what dry cleaners do.”
He believes that if our industry can educate the younger crowd and teach them to appreciate higher quality garments, they will convert into customers, resulting in growth. “We need more young people in the industry…both in business and as clients,” Parker continued. “Training younger people and getting away from the fast fashion or throw away garment phase is key.”
Industry Outlook: “I think a big part of the industry will be creating a new name for cleaners.” Parker said that many think all a dry cleaner does is clean and press suits and shirts. “I think continuing to show we are the garment care experts for all garments will be the key to success.”
“The other lines of cleaning many are doing like wash-dry-fold, tailoring, households, couture cleaning, shoes and leathers will all continue to be important as fashion changes,” said a pensive Parker. “I hope to see dry cleaning continue with these services and get more people dressing up again.”
Off the Clock: When he is not hustling at Dependable Cleaners, Parker enjoys travel, riding his motorcycle, trying new restaurants with friends, cooking and entertaining and learning new skills.
Last April, Parker purchased a home in Pembroke, Massachusetts. He is single and a dog dad to Daisy, 7 and Frank, ten months. Recently, Parker returned to Johnson & Wales University and is working towards a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
John Leano works for BRYAN’S Cleaners & Laundry in Pasadena, California. He responds to email: Leano@BryansCleaners.com, you can read his verbatim interviews right here every month.