RICHFIELD, Minn. — Pilgrim Cleaners in Richfield has done a good business laundering lab coats for a local dentists’ group for the last 12 years. And operator Jim Fingerman didn’t even go looking for the work — he was asked by the dentists.
“They were dissatisfied with the service they were getting from the commercial-linen guys,” Fingerman says. “When you’re in a relationship with clients or patients, there is an image they like to see. When it comes to uniforms for people who work in garages, I don’t think customers are going expect them to be anything but oily and dirty. But when the dentist walks in, I’d prefer not to see a blood-soaked lab coat.”
Fingerman plunged in with his plant’s existing drycleaning equipment and laundry equipment from Maytag Commercial Laundry, but no trucks or drivers. Luckily, he talked to a supplier whose father was looking for work and soon became “an ambassador for the company.” Finding skilled finishers was also hard, but after a lot of late nights, Pilgrim had earned the dentists’ trust — and their towel and rug business, too.
In certain market segments, drycleaners can deliver a better product than commercial launderers. “Commercial laundries are used to doing a discount job,” he says. “Because of our size, we were able to get a better handle on their needs. Before we got involved, they used to lose 15 to 20 lab coats a week. What we’ve done is sort of be the ‘high end’ of laundry.”
Now, Fingerman has a client for life. “It would be impossible for anyone to pry them away from us,” he says. “They’re used to being spoiled and aren’t willing to compromise. Quality and service and image were paramount. We’re large enough so that we could add the volume without destroying ourselves, but we were small enough to provide the service they wanted.
“We’re in a business of shrinking volume. This is the difference between our staying afloat and our going bankrupt.”