CINCINNATI — Zoots Corp. has sold Widmer’s Cleaners, the large Cincinnati-based chain it bought out in 1999, to the operation’s management team. Last week, Zoot’s sold or closed nine Connecticut stores, and appears to be consolidating nationwide.
Widmer’s changed ownership early this month, says Steve Carico, managing member, after about six months of talks. Newton, Mass.-based Zoots purchased Widmer’s shortly after startup to learn the business, in hopes of becoming a nationwide drycleaning brand.
“We were a well-known drycleaner, and Zoots was a startup,” Carico says. “They bought us to learn from — to learn about the drycleaning business."
Founded in 1910, Widmer’s was already one of the most successful drycleaners in the country. Since 1999, it has grown from about $7 million in annual sales to about $18.5 million, Carico says. Widmer’s now has 19 stores and 17 routes, and does substantial volumes in fire restoration, mold remediation and rug-cleaning.
“Zoots has treated us well and given us a lot of leeway,” Carico says. “They let us spend money on R&D, and we’ve spread our wings a little bit.”
Zoots officials could not be reached for comment. According to its website, the company now operates about 30 stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia.