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Business Neighbors

Let me start by saying I think my mom's advice of "always wear clean underwear" is very important.

We have some pretty awesome neighbors here at Hangers' main processing facility in Martin City.  I think we take them for granted most of the time but as I pulled up this morning I saw this shot of Farmland's spiral sliced ham factory - the largest in the world.  No kidding.  If the wind is blowing from the east, everything smells like bacon and who doesn't love that? Sometimes when I fart, I say "do you smell bacon?" and everyone takes a big whiff to see if they can actually smell bacon.  It's a trick that Mark Shrout taught me - althought he uses "do you smell popcorn?" instead.  Same result.  Try it sometime...it's fun.

A few years ago they had an ammonia leak that ended up being harmless but a lot of their employees came over to Hangers and hung out in our office for awhile.  No big deal.  Well, a couple days later, we received a box of enough spiral sliced hams for every one of our employees.  As Steven St. John would say..."it was delicious."

Across the street from us is Suburban Lawn & Garden's mulch factory.  Don't you love this business model?...you pay them to take your old branches, they grind them up and add some coloring to them, and then they sell them back to you in the spring.  When we first opened, they were grinding directly to the south of us and we get pretty strong southerly breezes that were blowing dust and mulch particles into our plant.  I called the owner, Bill Stueck, and he immediately shifted the grinding to the northeast so it wouldn't blow in our building.  That is a massive operation and he did it without prodding.  

Loving Arms Adult Day Care is just to the west of us.  They have a thriving day care for adults and treat us very well.  I grow zucchini at home and bring it to their owner, Debbie Hartsell and she makes us zucchini bread.  If you catch me somewhere in private, ask me to tell you the "woop woop" story.

Seville Home and our landlord, Eastbend LLC, let us use their loading docks, forklifts and other assets when we need them, which is all the time.  I'll have to test them and ask if I can use their bathroom.  That's how you know who your real friends are.  For example...

I feel sorry for my sister Betsy since she lives the closest to the Plaza of anyone in my family.  When the famous Runyan "pressure" starts to build it is usually followed by a rapid trip home to take care of business.  If the pressure is too much and the algorhythm your brain is calculating between toilet and "release" is coming up somewhere short of your home...it's time to stop at Betsy and George's since they are just off Ward Parkway. When it happens, no words need to be spoken upon arrival. It's a simple head nod between rapid, short breaths and the sweat dripping off the brow is a clear signal that pleasantries will be exchanged after the work is done.  The only real communication is a signal from Betsy as to whether the perpetrator is to go upstairs or the half bath by the kitchen.  Thankfully, she works at Indigo Wild so there is sufficient odor masking and remediation (good word) available at all times.  

Today's lesson:  Be good to friends, neighbors and family...you never know when you'll need them or their toilet!

Peplum & USPS

Peplum and Leather Touches

At the risk of having Jack Harry make fun of me, I DID say peplum!  Some of the clothing blogs I've been reading have mentioned that peplum is on the way out and leather "touches" are going to be "in" for 2014.  Two things...1) I'm thinking I should consider turning in my man card for mentioning "peplum" and "leather touches" in writing, 2) be aware that leather "touches" are VERY difficult and risky to clean.  They often bleed onto the surrounding fabric and can sometimes become stiff or even split (if glued in layers).  Just giving you a heads up.  

Postal Service

Check out what we received from the post office a few days ago.  I have no idea what it is/was.  Can you imagine if FedEx or UPS did this?!

Care Labels

I promised to talk about care labels and how confusing and frustrating they can be for cleaners.  My favorite that we get fairly frequently says "Do not launder. Do not dry clean."  Hmmm...what should we do?  Others say things like "Do not clean decorations" but the decorations are sewn into or onto the garment!  Here is a link ( http://www.textileaffairs.com/c-common.htm ) to common laundry and dry cleaning symbols since they can be pretty confusing at times.  Here are some funny care labels...

My dog wears t-shirts all the time.

 

Possibly my favorite.  This is good advice to listen to if you are a Hangers customer.

 

The world's best and brightest work in garment manufacturing, obviously!

 

Not PC...but who cares?

Mariano Rivera
I know I said I was going to blog about care labels and their bogusness...but I'm putting that off until next time. 

Those of you from Kansas City know (or should know) that the Royals just finished a series with the NY Yankees in which we were swept.  Yes, the dreaded and hated NY Yankees.  Ever since I had my 11, 12 and 13 year old heart broken by them in the mid 70's, I have hated that team.  Still do.

However, I read a story and then talked first hand with someone that experienced the class and thoughtfulness of Mariano Rivera.  Two worlds collided in KC this past weekend and the story is pretty special.  Let me begin...

First, the story of the Bresette family.  You may already know that the Bresette family lost their son, Luke, in a terrible accident at an airport in Alabama over spring break earlier this year.  Luke was huge baseball fan.  Luke's father, Ryan, is a friend of mine and he is also a huge sports fan.  Watching and imagining what the Bresette family was going through was difficult for me and for many, many others.

Fast forward to this weekend and the Royals vs. the hated Yankees.  I'm reading the paper Sunday morning about a nice meeting between Mariano Rivera and the Bresette family.  I thought how nice it was that Rivera (who I had heard was a great guy and, by the way, is the last guy in baseball still playing and to still wear #42 since it was retired for Jackie Robinson) was taking the time to meet with them.  The story went on to say that Luke was a huge baseball fan and then his brother Joe yelled "but he hated the Yankees!"  The article said that Rivera laughed and that is where the story ended. 


Ryan Bresette came into our business today (he is a customer) so we of course talked about the story in the paper and how cool we thought Rivera was.  Ryan said that Rivera was incredible and the story didn't do him justice.  Apparently one of the Bresette boys asked Rivera if he could have the ball if Rivera were to pitch in the game and that he would be behind the visitor's dugout after the game.  As fate would have it, Rivera pitched and got the save against our Royals.  The game ended on a fly ball so the Bresettes thought there was no way Rivera would get the ball back in his hands to give it to them, so they made their way to their car for trek home.  As soon as they got to the car, they got a call from one of the Royals PR representatives to let them know that Mariano Rivera was looking for them because he did, indeed, pitch in the game and he had promised to give the ball to one of the Bresettes.  Ryan Bresette then hustled back to the stadium to meet, once again, Mariano Rivera so he could fulfill his promise.

We hear lots of stories about pompous, self-centered athletes.  Well, Mariano Rivera is not one of them.

I still hate the Yankees just like my mom will always hate the Raiders...but Mariano Rivera is one cool dude and needs to be recognized for it. 



 
 
Shoe Shines, Jake and Big Tom
So we have built this business (or should I say we took over a business that was built by our government?) that has 11 store locations that we serve daily and thousands of homes and businesses that we drive by twice per week.  Our customers have been great and we appreciate the opportunity to do their dry cleaning and laundry but I'm always wondering what else can we do?  We've added personal laundry (like socks, t-shirts, undies, towels, sheets, etc...) and we recently added shoe shining.  Several of you asked if we could do it...so we partnered with Allen Mozee, world renowned (in my mind anyway) shiner.  Allen is an awesome guy and we want to keep him busy so send 'em in.

What else would you like done?  Please let us know...but it has to be legal.  If it's illegal, please send to my personal email address.  Just kidding.  Some things that have been suggested to us in the past...

  • Deliver dog food 
  • Cut keys
  • Offer cobbler service (not pie...fixing shoes)
  • ???? 


Ok...now a funny one.  My dad is a rancher so he is outdoors all the time, loves to hunt and loves wildlife in general.  He is also 80 years old so he's clearly not as hip as his 47 year old son.  One more piece of background information is that my dad's brother is named Tom and we refer to him as Big Tom and Big Tom has a grandson named Jake. 

So, it's turkey season and my dad sends me an email with an attached picture and the subject line reads "Jake watching Big Tom Breed West of my Garage" so the only image I can think of is the humans Jake and Tom...not the turkeys.  I sought counseling for that.

Next blog will tackle care labels and how bogus they are.  You bet.

 

 

The Fire That Melts the Butter...Tempers the Steel
"The Fire that Melts the Butter...Tempers the Steel"

The quote above is in response to a question about the best advice I ever got and is part of a video series at theKansas City Business Journal and HEMP (Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program). The advice was from my dad when things here at Hangers were not going so well.  The company was out of money, I was out of money and payroll was right around the corner and I had no means to borrow more to make payroll.  I was talking to my dad about things and he sent me the note pictured below.  Basically, it means that if something doesn't kill you it will make you stronger.  It always stuck with me and I've kept it on the wall right behind my desk.

Please note that I took the picture at such an angle that you can see the note from Barnett Helzberg (personal friend of mine) about the article in the New York Times about Hangers.  Am I a name dropper?  Yep.  


Speaking of Hard Times...A Solution to our Taxes Being Too High

I recently paid my quarterly estimated taxes so the pain is still very real in our household of giving our hard-earned money to government for them to spend.  Then, my wife calls me this morning and is PISSED.  She is typically not very political but was at Target this morning (I guess if things were real tough at our house I'd make her go to Walmart) and witnessed a woman in a motorized cart paying for her goods with food stamps.  Needless to say, she was NOT buying cheap stuff!  Then, to really rub her wrong, she sees this woman getting into her brand new Tahoe, which is parked in handicapped parking while the woman is walking around just fine.  She called me and was livid because I just wrote a big check to support crap like this all while driving a 2001 Explored with 150K miles on it and doors that don't work!  

My tax solution is not new.  Everyone...and I mean EVERYONE...should have to write a check to the government instead of having it withheld.  If you actually have to scratch out a check it will make you wonder just exactly what it is you are paying for.  Sorry.  I'm usually a little more jovial than this but the timing of these couple events has got me pissed again.  

Some Levity at My Expense



I posted on FB yesterday about the cool artwork at our store on the Plaza (4970 Main) by artist Mike Ladd and how smart it makes you seem if you know about art.  Quick story that I may have shared already (sorry if it's a repeat but I'm over 40):  During the second semester of my senior year in college I had to have 3 hours of art or music or some subject that I had zero interest in...so I took art because it seemed easy and I was hoping to paint a nude woman (didn't happen).  Towards the end of the semester I skipped class the day we picked one of our pieces to be displayed at our graduation ceremony.  My "friends" Mike Fay and Kevin Golliher chose a god-awful picture I painted and labelled it "I'm Gay" by Joe Runyan.  You can imagine the shock and horror when I saw that at graduation and feverishly tried to keep my parents and siblings away from it.  

Next Blog

I will drop Barnett Helzberg's name some more and the relationship that I have with Warren Buffett because of Barnett.  

As my mom says: "I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me."



 

 

Guest Blog From Across the Office
This posting is from Keri Abell, who is about to celebrate or lament the fact that she has been part of the Hangers team for 8 years.  Keri has had the pleasure/curse of being part of a company that has had the typical ups and downs of a start-up in an extremely competitive industry.  For companies like ours it is truly an "all hands on deck" mentality and over the years Keri has done it all...cleaned clothes, HR, accounting, marketing, pricing, customer service, driving, and who knows what else!  She has also learned about my quirks - good and bad.  I'm 47 but act like I'm a 13 year old sometimes...OK, most of the time.  We DO try to have fun and I know Keri has seen and learned a lot over the 8 years.  I'm proud of her and she should be proud of her part in helping Hangers defy the odds and become one of the better cleaners in KC.

 
Next month I will have been with Hangers for 8 years. I told Joe I should write a guest blog post on things I’ve learned working for a dry cleaner for 8 years. He didn’t hesitate to say yes. I’d like to pretend it was because he knows I can be funny and thought that I would really bring a great post to his blog, but in reality I know it’s because it gets him out of writing at least one blog post. So without further adieu…things I now know now that I didn’t know then.
This is the only way to guarantee cat urine will not ruin your comforter.
1.       Cat urine will never really go all the way away. I can’t scientifically say what’s in that stuff, but it’s potent. 
 
 2.       A shirt from Costco will last 10 times longer than any expensive, fancy shirt. Those Kirkland shirts are made to take a beating. Even the buttons they put on them are better than a shirt that costs 5 times as much.
 
3.       Speaking of buttons. If you leave EVERY SINGLE BUTTON ON YOUR SHIRT buttoned when you drop it off, I will remember you…and it won’t be fondly. You’d be surprised how much unbuttoning shirts can hurt after a dozen or so.
 
4.       Sticking with my button trend. I know it is annoying when you get a shirt back without a button, but I promise you, we do check for broken and missing ones. But there comes a point in the day where it’s like looking at an entire page of the word “the” and trying to find the one that’s misspelled. Your eyes will practically go crossed.
 
5.       A LOT, and I mean A LOT, of people poop themselves (poop reference satisfied for you Joe). I had NO CLUE that this was such a common thing.
 
 
 
One of Joe's favorite pictures. And unfortunately...not an uncommon occurance.
6.       One of the BEST companies to work with is St.John’s. We have been repeatedly impressed with their level of customer service. We aren’t perfect. Things can get damaged. St. John’s has been willing to replace buttons, zipper pulls, decorative pieces and even entire garments at no cost. They are out there to take care of their customers, and have impressed the heck out of us.
This is a mattress pad. Also known to many people as a dust ruffle. It is not a dust ruffle!!

 
7.       When someone says “Ok” it does not always mean okay. Sometimes it means “I have no idea what you are saying but if I say ok you’ll go away.”
 
8.       The terms “dust ruffle,” “bolero,” “shrug,” “tunic,” and a number of others, are totally foreign to a lot of people…especially men. 




 
Keri Abell
That's me! That's me! And yes, I do smile 90% of the time.
9.       Customer service can fix a multitude of sins. If you own/run/manage a company, make sure that the person that deals with the public knows what they are doing and can always muster up a smile.


 
10.   Color is totally subjective. What I consider khaki, may be beige to you. Or tan. Or brown. Or olive….you see what I’m saying. This can make it hard if someone is missing a pair of khaki pants.


 
11.   Speaking of khaki pants. If you need them rushed, I need to know in advance. Tracking 
down a pair of khaki pants once they are in process is like finding a needle in a haystack. Same for white, blue, or any combo of blue & white shirts. You want me to find the green dress and rush it….okay. No problem!
 
One shirt, two shirt, blue shirt, blue shirt, blue shirt (and another blue one, and another)!
Bugs will do this to your sweater. And that's only a snack!
12.    Bugs are evil. They may not eat all the way through your clothes in one sitting, but as soon as those clothes are cleaned, all of those weakened fibers will break and you’ll be able to see where they ate their breakfast.
 
13.   No matter where you work you will ALWAYS have one or two people that never make mistakes and are never wrong. Those are usually the people that make the most mistakes and are wrong most often. It’s just a fact of life. I like to laugh at them. And point out their mistakes.
 
14.   Training new employees is hard. Once something is completely second nature to you, it’s hard to explain it to someone else. It’s a big flaw of mine, but one I am more than willing to admit. Bonus: it gets me out of training new employees.
 
15.   I have an eye for clothes. I haven’t figured out yet how to translate that into a skill I can market. I recognize peoples’ clothes as they make their way through the plant. It’s a little odd and not generally all that valuable of a skill. But I have it. And I didn’t know that before.
 
I’ve learned a lot since that first day when Joe handed me a two page list of names of people that had declined credit cards and told me to call them and get updated information then went into a conference call behind a shut door. Little did I know some of those credit cards had been bad since just after Hangers opened in January, and here it was December. It was definitely a learning experience…not one I’d necessarily want again, but it worked I guess, because I’m still here. And I have MAD SKILLS-just ask anyone.
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Do You Smell Popcorn?

 

As an entremanure and business owner I am given an unlimited amount of free advice.  From people selling insurance, stocks, soap, machinery, financial planning or whatever, it seems everyone wants to talk to “the owner.”  I enjoy the methods that people use and I actually appreciate it when someone does something creative or memorable.  It’s hard to believe how many “friends from high school or college” use that line of BS to get through the first line of screening.  Allow me to debunk a few business owner myths:
1.       Not all business owners are rich (I am…but not all are)
2.       Business owners do not get to take off whenever we want.  “Oh, Joe, can you pick the kids up at 3:00 since you own your own business and can get off whenever you want?”
3.       We can’t “just write it off” when we have expenses that need to be covered.  “Dang! That bar bill is $200 and there are only 3 of us here.  Oh well, just have Joe pay for it…he’s a business owner and can just write it off.”
The best advice I’ve had in years, however, came from a friend on Friday night at the Rockhurst High School football game after someone had ripped a stinky fart.  He suggested that when you rip an SBD (silent but deadly) fart you should look around to anyone around you and say “do you smell popcorn?”  This will cause everyone to inhale, because everyone loves the smell of popcorn, and they will burn their nostrils.  It’s almost as fun as locking the windows on your car when you drop a dirty bomb with your kids in there.  Please note: most wives do not think it is very funny if they are in the car.
 
Seldom Used Vans
We have a spare van that does not get used often.  The radio in it does not work and sometimes it is pretty difficult to start…but when we need it, it’s a godsend.  I drove it last week and noticed that it had a wasp’s nest (the bug type…not the protestant type) on the back door. 
 
Seldom Used “Convertible”
Anyone who has known me for a while knows that I used to have a “convertible” named Big Yella.  It is a 1978 Ford LTD that belonged to my grandma Nadine.  She didn't like it so I turned the 4-door hard top into a convertible.  It was actually a convert…there was no “ible” at the end because there was no top.  I was at our farm in Stewartsville, MO last weekend and stopped in the shed where I parked it 15 years ago (the license plate on it is from 1997) and here is what I saw.  Can you believe how big the “tree” is that has sprouted in front of it?!  
 
 
 
One my fondest memories in that car occurred at 103rd & Metcalf while I was driving back to work at Sprint.  It was threatening to rain and I was trying to hustle back to get Big Yella back in the covered parking lot.  Well, it started to downpour and I was stuck at that light so I pulled out my umbrella and sat there in the rain.  People were looking at me like I was crazy. Maybe I are crazy. 
 
 
 
 
As Confucius once (allegedly) said:  “Squirrel who runs up woman's leg will not find nuts.”
 
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There's Chemistry Here! Do You Feel It?
My sister Betsy always answers that question with "I felt it!"  We are of course referring to one of the first videos I ever saw attached to an email.  It was a blind date where the guy opens the door for the girl and she sits in the passenger seat and rips a huge fart as he is walking around the outside of the car (of course, that's when most guys fart while on a date...why else would be open the door for our companion?).  Little does the girl know that there is another couple in the back seat.  When the dude opens the driver's door and gets in he asks if his date met the the couple in the back seat the girl in the back yells out "we sure did!" and he replies "there's chemistry here...do you feel it?"  Sorry, this long description violates my principle of brevity...read my first blog post.

OK...so what's been going on at Hangers in the last few months?

New Store on the Plaza



Yep...we acquired a store from Plaza Ford Ideal Cleaners in late July.  This is the first store acquisition we've ever done so we were a bit nervous about it.  How would the customer's react?  Would the employees make the transition?  Well, so far so good.  We are thrilled to be in that location (4970 Main Street), which is a "happenin" part of town and it just has good vibes.  I had my first beer in public at the Peanut, which is just across the street to the south.  I used an ID that I ordered from the back of Cosmopolitan Magazine and then walked home since I wasn't old enough to drive.  Oh dear.  Anyway, back to the store.  Sales for the store are currently ahead of our projections and we have lots of ideas that we think we can test and implement in a location like that. 

Competing with Tide

What's the first rule about competition?  Don't mention your competition.  I've never been very good at following rules.  I recently did a presentation to a group of dry cleaners called the Pinnacle Group from Massachusetts (or Massatwoshits as Mr. Massman called it at Jim's rehearsal dinner), NJ, NY, VT and NH about what it's like competing with Tide.  Hopefully I was able to shed some light on some things that these guys can use effectively if they are faced with the same situation some day.  A few things that I learned on my trip:

  1. No matter how you slice it, Southwest Airlines kicks ass.  They sponsored 10 or 15 WWII veterans to go to Washington, DC and see the monuments, etc...  SWA announced who was in the gate area at KCI and it spontaneously turned into a standing ovation from the crowd (it made me think there was still hope for this country).  Then, once on the plane, the pilot came out and talked to the vets and got choked up as he was a pilot in the Air Force, too.  When we landed in Baltimore (20 minutes early) the pilot was disappointed that, because we were early, the ground crew's "welcome" was not going to be possible.  They were hoping to have two firetruck shooting water in an arch and having the plane drive through it on the way to the gate.  I wish I could have experienced that.  Kudos to Southwest...and to the those veterans.  Thanks to both of you. 
  2. Cleaners are doing some pretty cool stuff when it comes to processing and marketing their businesses.  I am soooo glad that I was able to participate in their meeting.  I am certain that I learned more about how to compete with Tide from them than vice versa.  
  3. Be careful bringing up politics at dinner after everyone has had a few drinks.  Even in Massachusetts there are varying opinions about politics.  By the end of the VERY lively discussion, I came out of the restaurants knowing that nobody changed their mind and my opinion is the correct one.  
 




 

 

Smokin' Sisters
When it is this hot outside I often ponder why I decided to get into the dry cleaning business.  It must have something to do with the way I was raised as a child.  I mean look at two of my sisters from back in the 70"s...  Anyone have a good idea for a caption on this picture of Annie and Cathy?
 
 


 
 

 

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