For more than three decades, Platinum Dry Cleaners has been a trusted and much-recommended service provider in Naples.
“It was one of those things where when you bought a $3,000 blouse at a boutique here in Naples, the first thing out of the clerk’s mouth was, ‘You need to get this processed at Platinum Dry Cleaners,’” says Chris Bamberg, 55.
When the business became available for purchase in 2018, he and his brother, Craig Bamberg, 59, knew it was a good opportunity. The business had the name recognition and reputation, and the brothers had the skills to build that out even more.
Chris had previously owned Cache Cleaners in Naples from 1999 to 2007, then served as president and managing partner of Deluxe Cleaners in Jacksonville and president of the Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network. Craig, meanwhile, spent 18 years at ASG Software Solutions in Naples, serving as senior director of community relations and senior director of central operations.
“Our thought was if we could come in with his sales and marketing background and promotions background and my background in the business, where he’s in his sandbox and I’m in my sandbox, this could really be something,” says Chris.
The original owner had sold the business several years before, and it had admittedly lost a little bit of its luster. But the Bambergs knew it could be regained through steps like a branding redo that hearkened back to the company’s earlier days.
They spent their first year of ownership assessing problems and finding fixes. “My thought process was that we needed to fix the back,” says Chris. “The level of service had dropped off. We needed to get that back, so how do we do that? Bring in our own people and show them the old Platinum way.
“I was friends with the first-generation owner,” he continues. “He shared the recipe book with me and Craig.”
Then they were hit by the one-two punch of the pandemic and Hurricane Ian. Their secret to survival? Getting ahead of things.
Platinum Dry Cleaners decreased store hours and dropped from two pickup-and-delivery runs a week down to one, which reduced costs. Employees got paid as before thanks to a federal PPP loan.
The business had four retail locations at the start of the pandemic, but the brothers decided to close two stores where the leases were coming up and converted those customers to pickup-and-delivery service.
“Prior to COVID, we couldn’t convince customers to move to pick up and delivery to save their lives,” says Chris. “But COVID changed that whole dynamic in our business.”
They also inherited customers from two other dry cleaners that closed during the pandemic. “Knock on wood, we came out of it stronger and healthier,” he says. “But COVID made us look at our business a lot differently. When you’re just kind of running along and things are fine, you’re not looking at the nooks and crannies on your P&L. It made us all look harder and heavier at what you’re spending…We got really smart.”
While an increase in remote work, shifts toward more casual clothing and other post-pandemic trends have changed dry-cleaning habits, Platinum Dry Cleaners has seen growth from absorbing other businesses’ customers and the influx of new residents into the area. (The brothers declined to share revenue figures.) “By osmosis, we picked up a lot of new clients,” says Chris.
Though disruptive, 2022’s Hurricane Ian had some silver linings, too. Platinum’s restoration dry cleaning division kept things busy at a time when many customers weren’t going about their typical daily routines. “We had a record October and November because of the storm,” says Chris. “We were able to bring people back to normalcy.”
And now that the business has settled into its new normal, the brothers have been able to invest in equipment and technology, like state-of-the-art wet-cleaning machines and a Metalprogetti machine that automates the task of tracking customers’ orders. “It’s made us more competitive, because everything prior to that was done by hand, and hand is labor and labor can get expensive over time,” Chris says.
He estimates they’ve spent about $250,000 on new equipment and technology over the last 18 months.
To successfully run a business with 40 employees and eight delivery vehicles, “you’ve got to be here,” he says. “You’ve got to have your finger on the pulse at every stage, because there’s multiple personalities when you have 40 associates, and you’ve got to manage the personalities with the vision that we have.”
A sign that the brothers’ hard work is paying off? Platinum Dry Cleaners recently received national certification as an affiliate of America’s Best Cleaners, a distinction that’s highly regarded and difficult to achieve in the industry.
Maintaining that high-level of consistency is the main goal going forward.
“We don’t want to take on too much, because we don’t want our level of service to decrease,” Chris says. “So it’s just stay the course and continue to do what we’re doing. And continue to invest in our people, in the community and in our assets in the back to make things easier for us and create more capacity.”