I have been wanting to write about Jim Douglas for quite some time. Jim is known as co-founder of GreenEarth Cleaning and also co-founder of Prestige Cleaners, Sacramento. But what else do I know about Jim? I have known Jim for several years and when I approached him about doing an article about him, he was a little hesitant.
Recently, Jim presided over a Board meeting of the California Cleaners Association (CCA) Oh, did I mention Jim is the current President of CCA? We had a special guest at the Board meeting, Marcus Taslim, from Jeeves, which is known as the finest dry cleaning service across the world. Marcus spoke about Jim Douglas and he described Jim in one word: humble. How true this is. Jim’s story is very interesting. So let’s start at the beginning.
Jim’s father was an Assistant Warden so Jim lived inside the prison walls. He went to school outside of the prison so every day he rode the bus out of the prison to attend his small school. At the age of 8, Jim and his mother and father were on a vacation trip and they were involved in a tragic automobile accident. His mother and father were killed. Jim became an orphan. He ended up living with various aunts and uncles.
How did this lead him to the dry cleaning industry? One of his uncles owned Gila Valley Laundry and Linen so at the age of 10, Jim found himself feeding sheets into the huge machines. He also did all the other jobs that are usually left to the younger family members.
Jim obtained financial aid to Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas. As luck would have it, Washburn was hit with a tornado and had to close. Jim picked himself up and graduated from North Arizona University in Flagstaff. Upon graduation, Jim accepted a job in the bay area of California. The job was not in the dry cleaning industry. He went to visit an uncle on his way to his new job. His uncle was Salvin Swanson, founder of Swanson’s Cleaners located in Sacramento. After several discussions, Jim went to work at Swanson’s. “It was a tremendous opportunity,” Jim remembers. “I already had knowledge of the dry cleaning business. I could put that knowledge to work.” Jim worked his way up the ladder and served as President and co-owner of Swanson’s from 1988 to 1998. “Swanson’s was the largest drycleaning plant in the United States, serving as many as 115 locations from a single central plant of 100,000 square feet. It was a stoddard plant so I worked and processed with all available alternative solvents. Our plant was the test site for Exxon’s DF-2000” states Jim.
Jim’s cousin, Roger Swanson and he decided to part ways in 1998. Jim signed a non-compete clause that you could not go into the “retail” work for the dry cleaning business. Jim and his lovely wife, Jane began Prestige Cleaners in 1998 in Sacramento. Prestige Cleaners serves the hospitality industry and offers home and office delivery. Prestige Cleaners is one the larger dry cleaners in California with 30 employees and occupying over 8000 sq. ft. Both Jim and Jane are actively involved in the business.
How did Jim become involved with GreenEarth? “There are very few times that someone can make a difference in an industry. Jim Barry had been looking for a non-toxic solvent as an alternative to perc. So Jim, Ron Benjamin and I founded GreenEarth Cleaning. We are now in over 40 counties with 6000 points of service,” Jim proudly mentions. I visited Jim’s office at home and was amazed at the number of patents he has gotten. I asked Jim how many – seven distinct patents in over 40 countries. You do the math! He currently serves as Vice President and Chief Officer of Intellectual Properties for GreenEarth Cleaning.
Jim has done a lot of travelling in his role with GreenEarth. He has travelled many times to Abu Dhabi as well as Brazil and too many other places to mention. I asked Jim what it was like visiting these different countries. “Each country is different. The place where I felt most unsafe was Brazil,” chuckles Jim. “When I landed at the airport, guards with machine guns were all around. When I got to my hotel, there were more guards with machine guns! Luckily, nothing happened!”
Jim has been on the Board of California Cleaners Association (CCA) for many years. Along with his busy schedule, he volunteered to act as Treasurer for CCA for several years. No one else wanted that thankless job. In 2018, he was voted President of CCA. The term is for 2 years. Jim is steering the Association to be the best it can be. We have seen membership increasing under his watch.
Over the years, Jim has received many awards and recognitions. Below is a list of a few:
• 2002 International Fabricare Institute Recognition Award
• 2005 IFI Meritorious Green Seal Award
• 2012 CCA Dry Cleaner of the Year
• 2014 CCA Presidential Recognition Award
• 2016 CCA Dry Cleaner of the Year
• 2016 CCA Presidential Recognition Award
Jim could not have done all that he has done without the love and support of his wife, Jane. Jane laments that sometimes Jim takes on so much that she worries but after 34 years of marriage, they make a great team! “We are blessed with four daughters and ten beautiful grandchildren”, Jane shares. None are in the dry cleaning industry.
When you meet Jim, he is usually quiet and unassuming. Just like Marcus said: humble. Now you know more about Jim Douglas. I could write several more pages about this amazing man but I don’t want to cause him to blush!