The hallmark of the ’90s is a barrage of increasingly stringent rules and regulations covering drycleaning operations and the use of perc, past and present. The industry must constantly protect its interests against the regulators, while simultaneously developing new processes and strategies to secure its viability into the future.
1990 — EPA again attempts to redefine perc as a “probable” human carcinogen... March on Washington helps pass “acceptable” Clean Air Act amendments... Route services seen as a big growth area.
[NP][/NP]1991 — “Carefill” closed-loop solvent-delivery system introduced by Vulcan and R.R. Street at 1991 Clean Show in Las Vegas; rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork keynotes... The federal minimum wage rises to $4.25 per hour.
1992 — D.C.-area MacDee Quality Cleaners spearheads program offering free cleaning to the unemployed... More than 100 drycleaners affected by riots in Los Angeles... Wal-Mart tries its hand at retail drycleaning... IFI wins lawsuit, overturning OSHA’s 25 ppm PEL rule... EPA launches Design for Environment (DfE) program in cooperation with industry associations.
1993 — Environmental group Greenpeace issues first call for a perc “phaseout,” as the industry begins intensive research into alternative solvents such as nitrogen-enhanced hydrocarbons... Riddle & Associates takes over Clean Show management... IFI introduces a new certification, Certified Environmental Drycleaner (CED).
[NP][/NP]1994 — NIE Insurance president John Koprowski is murdered when he resists a carjacking attempt... Vision 2000 summit arranged by the Fabricare Legislative And Regulatory Education (FLARE) coalition works to reform federal Superfund legislation to encourage contamination cleanup, limit retroactive liability and protect drycleaning’s future.
1995 — The Textile Care Allied Trades Association (TCATA) celebrates 75th anniversary... Several states pass legislation authorizing cleanup trust funds... More than 25,000 attend Clean ’95 in New Orleans, where Caled Chemical and Global Technologies introduce DryWash liquid-CO2 process... The industry’s first 100% professional wetcleaning operation, The Greener Cleaner, debuts in Chicago... William Fisher becomes executive vice president of IFI, promises to rebuild the association with members’ needs in mind... “Workday Casual” trend gains steam.
1996 — Joe Barton (R-Texas) introduces H.R. 2522, a bill seeking to limit drycleaners’ contamination liability; operators argue their case before Congress within the year... EPA proposes reclassifying perc as a “known/likely” human carcinogen... Custom Cleaner “home drycleaning” kit hits store shelves.
1997 — Clean ’97 draws record 26,394 attendees to Las Vegas, where a second liquid-CO2 system from Micell Technologies debuts... The industry targets 100 cosponsors for the Barton bill (now H.R. 1711); by year’s end, the bill has 60 and the support of an industry fundraising arm, the Dry Cleaners Action Fund of America (DCAFA)... American Drycleaner publisher Ed Goldstein retires; Charlie Thompson succeeds him... Glycol ether Rynex appears in first field tests.
[NP][/NP]1998 — FTC proposes changes to its Care Label Rule including a new instruction for professional wetcleaning... R.R. Street prevails in first court case brought by Houston’s Pilgrim Enterprises seeking reimbursement from the allied trades for contamination-cleanup costs... EPA releases Cleaner Technologies Substitution Assessment (CTSA), casting new suspicions on perc toxicity... Salem, Ore.’s The Cleanery turns to “the other established solvent” whole-hog, installing 11 new dry-to-dry high-flashpoint hydrocarbon units... Dryclean Depot launches new era of deep discounting.
[NP][/NP]1999 — Micell opens its first retail CO2 drycleaning operation, rebranding Wilmington, N.C.’s Williams Cleaners as Hangers... Silicon-based GreenEarth solvent launches at Clean ’99 in Orlando with live demos and a catchy slogan... Z Cleaners in Phoenix installs nation’s first known 24/7, automated delivery unit... Longtime editor Earl Fischer retires.
The New Millennium has its ups and downs. Regulatory activity eases, and operators prosper in areas flush with new wealth. “Green” businesses take root alongside casual everything, and customers continue to shell out for convenience. But the decade is marred by terrorism, war, natural disaster and finally, a financial meltdown that could put an end to the industry’s marketplace saturation once and for all.
[NP][/NP]2000 — Y2K problems fail to materialize... American Drycleaner introduces new editor, new design... Procter & Gamble launches push behind “home drycleaning” product Dryel... PurpleTie, Zoots vie to create nationwide brand... FTC rejects “Professional Wetcleaning” instruction on care labels... Bill Seitz retires after 50 years with NCA... Drycleaners name hiring and training their biggest problems.
2001 — PurpleTie ceases operations... IFI introduces “Meritorious Service” awards at Clean ’01 in New Orleans; Stan Golomb wins first Diamond Achievement Award... Cleaner Paul Kim goes missing after Sept. 11 attacks.
2002 — Micell divests Hangers unit... Redeposition still the leading drycleaner-related cause of garment failure... IFI calls GreenEarth a “viable alternative” to perc... CRDN experiences explosive growth in restoration category... Perc demand down 82% since 1985, TCATA reports.
2003 — California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) issues 2020 perc ban... Nesbit’s takes Best Plant Design with an all-drive-thru location... U.S. hanger manufacturers call for tariffs against cheaper Chinese imports; Bush Administration rejects move in spite of International Trade Commission (ITC) support... NCA is now National Cleaners Association... Sherman Hemsley signs autographs at Cleaner’s Supply booth during Clean ’03.
[NP][/NP]2004 — Beset by foreign competition, Cleaners Hanger Corp. (CHC) liquidates assets... Zoots launches East Coast expansion... Wetcleaning now a staple in most plants... IFI relocates to a new facility in Laurel, Md.... Economic indicators predict fast growth; routes and restoration fastest-growing sidelines... Lodi, Calif., names 120 defendants in ongoing contamination-cleanup lawsuit... ABC primetime soap Desperate Housewives launches with “Everybody Has Some Dirty Laundry” poly-bag promo... Vulcan gets out of the perc business.
2005 — American Drycleaner launches the Wire, an e-mail newsletter... Rising gas prices cut into profits... IFI debuts Award of Excellence (AOE) “voluntary certification” program at Clean ’05 in Orlando; while slightly smaller, some call the show “best ever”... Whirlpool buys out ailing Maytag Corp.... Hurricane Katrina strikes New Orleans, leaving Clean Show’s rotation in flux... With Olympics on the way, Texcare Asia in Beijing is so successful that it will return to China in two years instead of four.
2006 — The Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA) and Uniform & Textile Service Association (UTSA) decide to postpone merger talks... EPA issues amendments to Clean Air Act banning perc use in colocated facilities by 2020... Laidlaw Corp. bought out by private investors... Whirlpool Corp. absorbs Maytag operations, expects to produce net loss of 3,000 jobs... Sankosha buys mothballed Ajax brand... Court charges industry suppliers $13 million in damages in long-running Modesto, Calif., contamination-cleanup case; defendants vow to appeal.
[NP][/NP]2007 — American Drycleaner launches AmericanDrycleaner.com, a new web portal dedicated to the industry... Maytag conducts nationwide talent search to find new “Ol’ Lonely” repairman, picking amateur actor Clay Jackson from hundreds of applicants... Navisa abruptly ceases hanger manufacturing... 99-year-old Adco Inc. sells to private equity firm... R.R. Street introduces Solvair “hybrid” drycleaning system at Clean ’07 in Las Vegas... IFI changes name to Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI), releases solvent white paper... Judge Roy Pearson launches $54 million suit against Washington D.C’s Custom Cleaners over a single lost pair of pants... Publicly traded U.S. Dry Cleaning (USDC) begins acquisitions to build nationwide chain.
2008 — New Jersey, Philadelphia propose perc phaseouts... Zoots splinters, liquidates... Hanger prices spike with new tariffs... 82.2% of drycleaners working overtime... Procter & Gamble enters retail drycleaning with Tide stores... Green Cleaners Council (GCC) offers new “green” certification... Economic meltdown hits drycleaners; sales drop 20% to 40% nationwide.
2009 — New Orleans ready to host Clean ’09... Canada limits D5 in waste streams... Obama stimulus package to offer small businesses $880 million... Industry unites against union card-check bill... And American Drycleaner celebrates its 75th birthday.