Dry cleaner trades on well-known detergent

If you leave your car to go inside the new Tide Dry Cleaners in southwest Naperville, you'll notice a clean scent, an opening in the wall revealing the operations of the business, and a large orange dry cleaning machine that resembles a box of Tide detergent.

It's all by design.

With a history dating to 1946, the new dry cleaning business banks on the Tide brand that consumers have trusted for years to make doing the laundry a little easier, said Jeff Wampler, CEO of Agile Pursuits Franchising Inc., a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble.

In 2008, noting that consumers generally were not happy with their dry cleaners, the company decided to launch a test site in Kansas City. Since then, 18 stores have opened in 10 states with plans to open as many as 10 more in the next year.

"It's an $8 billion business where consumers are not satisfied," Wampler said. "We thought perhaps the Tide brand can extend into that space." The brand's promise that clothes stay looking newer longer holds true for the dry cleaning service as well.

In July, Raj Patel opened Illinois' first Tide Dry Cleaners at 2940 Showplace Drive in Naperville. Patel, who with his father owns Dunkin Donuts, Jersey Mike's Subs and Wing & Rings franchises in the area, plans to eventually open two other Tide Dry Cleaners in other parts of Naperville. He has another dry cleaning store in the works in Glen Ellyn and eventually hopes to have about a dozen dry cleaning stores in the Chicago area.

"There will never be a bigger name in clothing care," Patel said. "It seemed to be a no-brainer to get involved in this."

The Tide dry cleaning business is all about customer convenience and service. Customers don't have to leave their cars. In Naperville, they pull up into a covered drive-thru bay and a valet comes out to pick up or bring out the dry cleaning.

"It works great for moms because they don't have to get out of the car," Patel said.

The store is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. If those times don't work, pickups and drop-offs can be made 24 hours a day, using drop boxes and lockers with customer codes. Same-day service is available every day but Sunday. Shirts cost $1.75 and comforters of any size cost $20 to clean.

At the Tide Dry Cleaner planned for Glen Ellyn, a "vending-machine"-style pickup option will be offered. Customers punch in a code and the dry cleaning rack will move the appropriate clothes to the pickup area. "It's like a Redbox for clothes," Patel said.

Also, broken buttons are automatically replaced and special services like white, color and black restoration, alterations, leather cleaning and wedding dress preservation are available.

"If you have a faded black-collared shirt or a dress, we can dye that back to black where it looks almost new," Wampler said. Customers also can request unscented dry cleaning and laundering.


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