Our Story – the Early Years
Customers often ask me “How in the world did you get into dry cleaning?” It is a good question and sometimes I am not sure of the correct answer. There were a number of reasons why we got into this business and insanity may have been high on the list. After all, I had several years of banking experience with firms in Indiana, Texas, Oklahoma and here in Jacksonville. I hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Indiana State University and am a Certified Public Accountant, Chartered Bank Auditor and Certified Internal Auditor. Diane also has a degree from ISU and worked for companies such as General Electric, Stuart C. Irby Company, and Westinghouse in the electrical supply field.
And we wanted to become dry cleaners? For what reason?
The answer is quite simple. Most dry cleaners that we dealt with as customers sucked. Employees did not care about their clients, operators could care less about quality, and deadlines meant nothing. We believed there was need for a quality dry cleaner who cared about their customers and would deliver clothes on time. A cleaner who would attempt to remove stains, properly press clothes and package them properly without losing or damaging garments (and if something did go wrong would stand behind their work.) We also believed – and still do – men’s and women’s’ clothes should be priced the same when at all possible.
Go back about a quarter of a century, I had just left my job (not completely voluntarily) as an auditor for a major bank, and my wife, Diane, had hit the glass ceiling hard at her employer. We were both at a point in our lives where we wanted to settle in and raise our family so we looked at self-employment opportunities and determined that dry cleaning and laundry services may provide the things we were looking for. Initially, we operated strictly as a pick-up and delivery service known as Dry Clean Express of Jacksonville and our operations were based in a spare room in our house.
During our early years we contracted our cleaning with a third party, but over time we outgrew that cleaner’s ability to serve our customers’ needs and soon we were looking for a place where we could control the complete operation of our business. We looked at many cleaners that currently existed but were not impressed with their operations or felt that the asking price asked was not reasonable. We eventually partnered with a cleaner to operate a plant location in Ortega and during this period made the effort to learn as much as we could about the day to day operations of dry cleaning and laundry facilities.
Eventually this arrangement no longer met the needs of either party and we knew it was time to go on our own. In June, 1996, we opened the doors to Sand Dollar Cleaners at our current location on University Boulevard North. Over the years we have had to overcome major challenges. Events such as dealing with crooked contractors, difficult employees, burglaries and even armed robberies, and equipment failures have each created obstacles for us deal with. Economic swings and changes in workplace environments have also caused us to adjust our business plans. But through it all we have persevered and look forward to serving both our current clients and new customers for years to come.
And we have been able to survive because of underlying commitment to caring for our customer in everything we do. That is the foundation for our motto: “Quality you can see, Service you can trust, and Value you can depend on. Guaranteed!”