Wash-and-wear, permanent press and other easy-care options take a big bite out of the market as the 1970s dawn; recession, stagflation and two prolonged energy crises also help slash sales and profits. But America’s small businesses mature alongside its consumer culture, and while bruised, drycleaning isn’t beaten.
[NP][/NP]1970 — Al Phillips The Cleaner’s remodeled plant in Las Vegas takes Grand Prize in this year’s Plant Design Awards; operators Mel and Phil Shapiro staff the plant with miniskirted carhops... Nipsey Russell is the star attraction at this year’s AIL/NID convention in Chicago... Sanitone introduces “Futurematic” automatic detergent dosing... Shirt volume drops precipitously nationwide as permanent-press fibers gain market share... Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA) passed by Congress.
1971 — Fashion produces double-knit “explosion” in men’s and womens’ garments; half of all garments may be knits within a year.
1972 — NID and AIL complete merger negotiations, forming the International Fabricare Institute (IFI), based in Joliet, Ill.... FTC issues Care Label Rule, generating confusion among consumers and drycleaners alike.
1973 — FTC amends Care Label Rule to include “Dry Clean Only” instruction... LACATA launches $100,000 industrywide promotional program... Vinyl, polka dots and polyurethane and are “giving drycleaners fits,” says Neighborhood Cleaners Association (NCA) garment analyst Dan Eisen... Cleaners targeting and winning more “easy-care” business... Energy crisis produces perc shortages.
[NP][/NP]1974 — Don Martin retires as publisher of American Drycleaner; Ed Goldstein assumes role... “Blow Away The Blues” is the theme of IFI’s convention in New Orleans... High Point, N.C.’s A Cleaner World uses “ecological” positioning in TV ads... Magazine sponsors three seminar programs featuring popular columnists, releases Harold Newcomer’s Spotting Guide... President Nixon resigns in disgrace following long Watergate probe.
1975 — The World Educational Laundry & Cleaning Congress, or Clean Show, debuts in Chicago under the sponsorship of the Institute of Industrial Launderers (IIL), Linen Supply Association of America (LSAA) and the National Association of Institutional Laundry Managers (NAILM)... IFI names George Jefferson an honorary member; actor Sherman Hemsley accepts in a ceremony held at CBS’ Television City... 53% of drycleaners add new services.
1976 — IFI develops radio advertising spot featuring tuneful “Dryclean When You Care” jingle... Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unexpectedly issues Recommended Standards for The Drycleaning Industry, which many operators feel are unnecessary.
1977 — Average base prices for drycleaning increase 9.2% to $2.74, according to this year’s State of The Industry survey... IFI and LACATA join sponsors for Clean ’77 in Chicago; 316 exhibitors appear... Dr. Dorothy Lyle, author of the Modern Textiles textbook, joins “All-Star” slate of columnists... National Cancer Institute reports that perc may be a carcinogen after force-feeding mice massive quantities, promises to pursue further testing at the industry’s request.
1978 — Minimum wage rises to $2.65; 42% of small businesses cut or plan to cut staff... Cheaper silks start to flood the market, many plants must brush up on finishing procedures... “Career” apparel booms into $1 billion business... Drycleaners spending an average of 3.9% of gross on advertising, with 80% dedicated to newspapers.
[NP][/NP]1979 — “Layered look” dominates winter fashions... IFI moves to Silver Spring, Md., formerly home of NID.... EPA issues report calling for stricter controls of solvent releases; states told to develop guidelines by next year... Clean ’79 in Chicago features keynoter Gerald Ford and brings in 11,000 attendees... Demand for Susan B. Anthony dollar “spotty,” The Wall Street Journal reports; some retailers and restaurants “openly hostile” to the new coin... Isabel Sanford imitates art, opens Weezy’s Celebrity Cleaners & Clothes Spa.
The 1980s are nothing if not good for business. The Reagan era ushers in power suits for men, buttons and bows for women, and preppy styles for everyone. Increasing affluence brings brand-conscious, conspicuous consumers and supports rapid growth for the industry. But federal regulators are launching a persistent, rigorous examination of drycleaners’ solvent use.
[NP][/NP]1980 — John Travolta credited with bringing back three-piece suits... The Laundry & Cleaning Council (LCC) distributes 80,000 copies of its new booklet, The Safe Handling of Percholoroethylene... Editor Paul Glaman dies unexpectedly; Earl Fischer steps in.
1981 — President Reagan and wife Nancy favor structured garments; cleaners deal with lots of loose knit and drapery problems.
[NP][/NP]1982 — Forbes calls drycleaning an “up-and-coming” industry... IFI commissions new study of consumer attitudes... Cable TV offers operators media exposure at a fraction of networks’ cost... FTC declines to extend Care Label Rule to household textiles such as drapes and upholstery.
1983 — Franchising experiences a boom... “Washable” suits fail NCA testing... Chicago is “the place to be” for this year’s Clean Show, which pays former Secretary of State Alexander Haig $24,000 to speak... Options in personal computers and software for drycleaners multiply.
1984 — Linen and ramie are spring’s hottest fashion fibers... Textile rental growing 7% annually... EPA amends Clean Air Act to cover perc emissions... “Small” waste generators redefined as those producing 100 kilograms per year.
[NP][/NP]1985 — Capitol Varsity megaplant in Dayton, Ohio, takes Grand Prize in 24th Annual Plant Design Awards... California adopts Prop. 65 to limit releases of chemicals into groundwater... IFI investigates mysterious disappearing pinstripes on shirts... Henry Kissinger addresses Clean ’85 in New Orleans... Hazardous wastes now subject to manifest.
1986 — Discount cleaners spur price wars in Denver; Colorado Lace Dry Cleaners responds with first modern frequent-user rewards club... Dryclean USA goes public, issuing 1 million shares of stock.
1987 — Clean Show in Atlanta features keynote speech from former ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick... IFI raises money for PRIDE (Parents’ Resource Institute for Drug Education).
[NP][/NP]1988 — EPA decides to classify perc as something between a “possible” and “probable” human carcinogen... DuPont announces it will phase out Valclene production.
1989 — Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) cuts permissible exposure level (PEL) for perc to 25 ppm; IFI sues for less-stringent regulation... Vogue Cleaners sued for gender bias in pricing.