Gilbert residents Jeff and Tanya Kline are quickly making their transition into the East Valley dry cleaning industry. The husband-and-wife business duo recently opened its third Lapels Dry Cleaning franchise store in just a few short months.
The Klines held grand openings in September for their plant store in Gilbert and drop store in Ahwatukee. The newest location, the Chandler drop store, opened its doors in mid November.
It wasn’t in the original business plan, but the location became available and the chance to seize it was too good to pass up.
“We’ll be a little busier than we planned this early in the business,” Jeff Kline said. “But when opportunity presents itself, you have to go for it.”
The stores work through a hub and spoke business model. The Gilbert location is where cleaning and other services are done. Customers drop off and pick up clothes at the Ahwatukee and Chandler drop stores, but no cleaning takes place there. A company van transports articles. Jeff Kline has been doing the driving, but the couple plans to hire a driver.
After a 20-year career in the aerospace industry, mostly as an aerospace engineer and program manager at Orbital Sciences Corp. in Gilbert, Jeff Kline said he always wanted to run his own business and believes he has the attributes of an entrepreneur — except he lacked “that one great idea.”
“It finally dawned on me to go find someone else’s successful business plan and/or business and just execute that,” he said.
After researching and working with business brokers, he got interested in the idea of dry cleaning and started talking with Lapels Dry Cleaning about a franchise. When he proposed the idea to his wife, she thought he was “absolutely nuts.”
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. You want to give up a comfortable corporate job to have a risky small business?’” she said.
But further discussions and research convinced her to get on board with the plan, especially when she found out that Lapels Dry Cleaning uses environmentally-friendly dry cleaning practices that are a result of technological advances in equipment and cleaning solution.
Lapels Dry Cleaning uses solvents that are biodegradable, non-toxic and don’t break down into hazardous waste. The Klines also recycle and reuse hangers and are mindful of ways to improve packaging for a more environmentally friendly or “green” practice. They try to reuse the plastic clothes bags and are keeping an eye out for possible biodegradable bags.
Tanya Kline may have been hesitant at first, but she now finds the job fulfilling in multiple ways and is proud that their Lapels Dry Cleaning stores can provide “quality garment care without creating hazardous waste or a hazardous work environment.”
“Because the both of us were willing to take this risk and work really hard, we’re actually not only providing a great service to our customers, but … we’re (also) able to create jobs for people,” she said. “That’s really satisfying.”
The couple has 11 employees, excluding themselves. They plan to hire one to two more experienced cleaning professionals for the Chandler location. Their 16-year-old son, Austin, works for the business and daughter Payton, 14, also helps out from time to time.
The couple said quality customer service is a key focus. The stores average about 60-70 new customers a week, and the experience those customers get at Lapels Dry Cleaning is not something the Klines take lightly.
Store locations and hours:
Gilbert — (480) 855-2000
Kohl’s/Sprout’s Shopping Center
2586 S. Val Vista Drive
Ahwatukee — (480) 706-1032
Trader Joe’s/Safeway Shopping Center
4025 E. Chandler Blvd.
Chandler — (480) 252-4650
Next to Starbucks at “The Falls”
1085 W. Queen Creek Road
All store hours:
Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.