Keeping it Clean
Paula Kostick Gribble, owner and general manager of Classic Drycleaners and Laundromats, feels that to run your business successfully, “all things are equal,” she said. “It all comes down to work ethic, perseverance, dedication, integrity, sales and marketing … and the people I surround myself with.”
This successful businesswoman credits her father and other mentors she has chosen for her positive business sense.
“I do not have a college education … most everything I know about business, I learned from either my father or business leaders … both local leaders and industry leaders from all over the country.”
Gribble’s parents, Paul and Joanne Kostick, started Classic Drycleaners and Laundromats in 1970 with their first location in Mechanicsburg. The business has grown and expanded considerably since then, and Gribble’s hard work and dedication has played an important role in that success.
“We are always busy,” she said. But she also admits that the industry has changed a lot over the years, and to remain successful, her business had to change as well. About 15 years ago, a change in the mode of dress in the professional workplace began to emerge.
“Offices looking to ‘reward’ their employees started allowing them to dress casually,” Gribble said. “It hurt our business a lot. We had to start a new division quickly in order to keep our doors open—we partnered with a national franchise, CRDN (Certified Restoration Dry-cleaning Network). This franchise specializes in smoke, fire, water, textile, and electronics restoration. It saved our business, and this division continues to grow.”
Among her many other duties, Gribble is responsible for all of the billing for their CRDN division, and it is quite different from a simple accounts-payable situation because they are billing directly to an insurance adjuster.
“There is a sales-and-marketing aspect to billing an insurance adjuster,” she said. “They are very busy people … and paying your bill is No. 99 on [the list of] things they need to do that day.”
Sales and marketing in all areas of the business are some of her favorite parts of the job, Gribble said.
“I love networking and prospecting for new accounts and new business and also maintaining existing business,” she explained.
Voted “Simply the Best Drycleaner and Laundromat” by the readers of Harrisburg magazine for more than 10 years, Gribble and the rest of her team know all about excellent customer service.
“I leave the amazing customer service up to my staff,” she said. “Every single day they wow our customers. They know customers by name; they have their clothes ready before they get out of their car. Our delivery drivers not only pick up cleaning from homes, but also our customers’ clothing donations.”
Although she has an excellent staff, human resources is, unfortunately, sometimes an area where Gribble must face her biggest challenges.
“We have always been a great employer, but it seems in the past few years, new staff expect a lot more from us while they give back less. The entitlement issues some people have make it very hard to run a business some days. Great people are still out there, but they are much harder to find,” she said.
Another struggle lies in the constantly increasing costs of utilities and labor.
“Our utilities run us 10 percent of gross revenue, and our labor is about 45 percent,” Gribble said. “The only way to keep these costs in control is to constantly be upgrading our equipment to increase efficiency, both on the utility and labor sides. But over the past 20 years, our profit has decreased dramatically … this is mostly due to the fact that we simply cannot increase prices enough. How much will someone really pay to have a pair of pants cleaned? We are maintaining our quality but only through innovation, new equipment, and reducing our dependence on labor.”
Even with the day-to-day struggles she may face, Gribble understands the importance of supporting the local community.
“My dad taught me that without our community, we don’t have customers, and we don’t have employees. It is a win-win-win when you give back.”
Classic Drycleaners and Laundromats are regular supporters of various local organizations, including Dress for Success of South-Central Pennsylvania and the Humane Society of the Harrisburg Area.
According to their website, they are also the “official hydration station” of the Harrisburg area, having donated more than 340,000 bottles of water to local community events and organizations since 2007.
Throughout her years in the industry, Gribble has learned many lessons about the value of honesty, integrity, and commitment to employees and her local community.
“I have learned how important it is to stay true to your values and stand up for what you believe in,” she said. “And from my father, I have learned that hard work can get you anywhere you want to go. In business, being the biggest isn’t the best—being the best is the best!” BW