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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 3 weeks ago

Economic Forecast 2020: Dry Cleaners 

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Bobby Patel, owner of Courtesy Cleaners 
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Dry Cleaners

Bobby Patel

Owner

Courtesy Cleaners, Sarasota

Company:

Courtesy Cleaners, with seven locations and about 25 employees, has been in business in Sarasota for over 40 years. Owner Bobby Patel also owns eight dry cleaning locations in Lakewood Ranch that operate under different names. Dry cleaners in general have been called economic bellwethers — the theory being the industry can foresee economic change based on the number of garments customers bring in and how quickly they pick them up. This year, Patel has seen positive signs, including an uptick in people bringing in items across all Courtesy Cleaners locations. He declines to disclose revenue figures for the business. 

Opportunities:

Courtesy Cleaners started offering pickup and delivery service about six months ago as a convenience, following customers asking for it. Patel says it’s been popular so far, and he wants to continue to expand the service, encouraging more customers to take advantage of it. The company also offers a selection of other services, including alterations, rug cleaning and a wash-and-fold service that have helped bring in more business. Patel bought the company eight years ago and says some customers have been coming to Courtesy Cleaners for over 20 years. That loyal base of customers is key for the company as well. After a strong 2019, Patel says the year ahead looks good, too.

Threats:

When the economy slows, it doesn’t affect Courtesy Cleaners as much as it affects other industries, such as hotels, Patel says. “It doesn’t hurt much,” he says. The fact that the company has long-term customers also helps it overcome some broader economic impacts. To keep the company top of mind, Patel makes an effort to personally keep in touch with clients, checking in to see if they need anything. The key challenge ahead for the company, he says, is competition from other dry cleaners that have opened in town. Sarasota can only support so many dry cleaners, Patel says. “I don’t do anything extra because of the new cleaners,” he says. “People know — they’ll go where the quality is.” As owner, Patel wants to ensure standards stay high at his business, so he says he works 13 to 14 hours a day in the plant at a minimum. He says, “I do it myself to make sure operation runs smoothly.”

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