Merrick Employee Spotlight: Brian Jensen

You know that moment when you wake up in the morning and you never know what the day’s going to bring?  Brian Jensen, one of the eight delivery employees with White Way Cleaners, does. Brian, who was born with Down Syndrome (and what seems like an eternally positive attitude), loves his job at White Way Cleaners. He considers himself the professional in his line of work, and he’s right.

Today Brian is dressed in nice black pants, polished black shoes and a burgundy White Way jacket embroidered with his name.  He is proud to work for White Way, and believes he’s one of the luckiest men alive to be able to deliver his customers’ garments to them.

On the day I meet him, he seems more interested in interviewing me, than answering the questions I have for him.  He’s excited to meet another new person, “I love meeting new people! I know all the firemen and policemen.”  One of the first questions he asks me is, “Do you know any fireman?”  He mentions he’s proud of them, and proud to know them.  When I ask him what his favorite part about his job is, he mentions he’s proud of his co-workers, and his boss, Amy.  Amy is one of the delivery drivers for White Way Cleaners, but actually works in an affiliate program through Merrick, Inc.

Merrick offers mentally handicapped individuals opportunities for community inclusion and participation, social relationships, skill building, and personal futures.  Each individual is assessed based on their unique passions, values, gifts, interests, skills and preferences so they are placed within a job that aligns with their needs.  At White Way | St Croix Cleaners, about 8 individuals from Merrick help with the delivery services, including Brian.

Twelve years ago, White Way | St Croix Cleaners began talks to work with Merrick Inc. to offer mentally disabled employees a chance to be a part of the community through White Way’s delivery routes.  White Way employees check the clothes in, clean, press and package, and then it is up to the Merrick team to deliver the garments back to the customers.

During the delivery routes, Brian and his co-workers have their own customers to drop off and pick up garments from.

“Each person has their own individual delivery stops and customers.”  Amy Jacobsen, one of the managers and home delivery drivers for White Way and Merrick, explains.  In the morning, four days a week, the crew packs up finished garments at White Way’s main plant on West 7th Street in St Paul. They will then deliver the garments to apartments, condos, office buildings and residential areas, while picking up new bags to be checked in and cleaned for the next available delivery date.

Brian has been considered an important part of the St Paul community for years.  He is an honorary firefighter, and has attended several banquets for them.  He was even given the opportunity to speak at one of their special events.  To this day, it seems that every fireman and policeman in the city of St Paul knows who he is.

John Miller is the Store Lead at White Way’s location on West 7th St in St Paul and mentions how proud he is of Brian, “I’m always impressed with how hard he works.  I never have to ask for help with bringing clothes out to a customer, I just turn around and hear Brian shout, ‘I’ll get it John!’ Before you know it, you have too much help!”

When Brian isn’t working, he is an avid to movie watcher.  He enjoys hanging out on the weekends with his girlfriend and listen to 80’s music as well.  He tells me he’d love to be a comedian, and even tells me a few jokes.  “What do you call Batman and Robin when they get run over by a steam roller?”  “Flatman and Ribbon!”

Brian is proud of the work he does for his regular customers at White Way Cleaners, whom he has known since he started working on the delivery truck 12 years ago.  There is nothing else he’d rather be doing, and not even any tasks he wishes he didn’t have to do. “I like it here,” he says.

“A lot of customers have cards, treats and even Christmas presents for Brian and the others,” Amy says.  The relationship between White Way/St Croix Cleaners and Merrick has been extremely beneficial for everyone involved, and is expected to continue for years to come.  “It gets [these individuals] out into the community.  They’re not just people with disabilities anymore.”

Be sure to stay tuned for the second part of our Merrick Employee Spotlight, when we’ll feature Brian’s fellow employee Matt!

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What is "Green Dry Cleaning"?

“Earth Friendly.”  “Non-Toxic.”  “Environmentally Friendly.”  “100% Toxin Free.”

Not exactly the words that come to mind when you think about Dry Cleaning.  So what really is the meaning of ‘green’ dry cleaning, and what does it mean to you, the consumer, when a dry cleaner claims they are ‘green’?

First of all, we should probably explain what Dry Cleaning itself really is.  It isn’t actually the act of cleaning your clothes when they are dry.  They still are saturated and become ‘wet,’  just not from water.  For over 100 years, Dry Cleaners have primarily used a chemical called perchloroethylene, also known as “Perc”, as the solvent in the dry cleaning process.  This is a harsh chemical which cleans your clothes very well, but with each wash can fade the colors and roughen the fabrics  Perc is also responsible for the chemical smell most people associate with Dry Cleaners.

But besides just bad smells, Perc is also considered a hazardous chemical and some researchers have declared it to be a carcinogen. It is taxed by the government to use, and must be disposed of properly.  Every dry cleaner in the nation must pay into a drycleaners’ “superfund” for hazardous waste cleanups (even if the dry cleaner doesn’t use Perc!).  If there is a spill in a dry cleaning facility, it can be very expensive to clean up.

In the past few years, new technologies have emerged allowing Dry Cleaners to try different solvents for cleaning garments, most with the focus of being more environmentally friendly.

Since building our new plant in 2007, St Croix | White Way Cleaners uses a Hydrocarbon solvent, which, along with being odorless,  biodegrades within days of being exposed to air, water or earth. Oh, and it cleans pretty well too! (Just look at our five straight Seal of Approval wins from the DryCleaning and Laundry Institute!)

Other benefits include:

Softer Feeling Clothes

Extended Garment Life

Virtually Odorless

No Color Loss

Safe on Delicate Fabrics, beads, sequins and other embellishments

We have also invested in another new technology called “Wet Cleaning”.  These machines use water but, unlike “washing machines”, wet cleaning machines infuse detergents, softeners and other cleaning agents via different computer programs to efficiently & effectively clean many garments that previously could only be “dry cleaned”.

St Croix |White Way Cleaners is committed to being an environmentally friendly Dry Cleaner. We are no longer considered a hazardous waste producer by the MN EPA.  Not only do we use non-toxic solvents and recycle hangers, but we were the first in the Midwest to implement the use of bio-degradable plastic bags. These bags are kinder to the environment, and will help preserve our future.

We also use a state of the art water circulation system, effectively recycling and reusing the water supply in our dry cleaning plant.  Since installing this system, we have reduced the amount of water used in our plant by over 35%! It effectively makes our environmental footprint even smaller.

While other Dry Cleaners may say they are “green,” (isn’t everyone, these days?)  Most are still using unnatural solvents to clean your garments.  Though Perc is still being used in the majority of dry cleaners, it is commendable that many dry cleaners are working as hard as possible to use more earth friendly technologies and solvents.  If you want the best of both worlds right now, green cleaning is the clear choice and St Croix | White Way Cleaners is proud to be one of the leaders in the movement.

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Earth Day – More Businesses are Going Green

In honor of Earth Day this Sunday, we wanted to share this interesting article on how different industries, including Dry Cleaners, are “Going Green” and the benefits they see from doing it.

Stay tuned next week as well for a more in-depth look at how St Croix | White Way Cleaners has embraced earth friendly cleaning!

From the Ft. Lauderdale Business Examiner:

Green products are transforming businesses — in a big way since the first Earth Day in 1970.

The Miami Herald reported that more business both within and outside of Florida are going green.  Why is that?  Because it means big business. Just how much has the environmental movement changed South Florida businesses and consumer trends since the first Earth Day 42 years ago? Let’s take a look…

In 1970: The environmentalist picked up litter at the beach and by the highway. Petitioned Congress to ban DDT in pesticides and lead from gas. Joined the local food co-op to buy organic products.

Today: The environmentalist services the family Prius at a green auto center. Uses an eco-friendly dry cleaner or house-cleaning contractor. Shops the GreenWise aisle at Publix.

Eco-friendly trends have transformed government and corporate policies over the past four decades. And those changes are most evident in the rise of green businesses and a new wave of pocketbook environmentalists who believe that going green makes financial sense.

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“I see it every day; more and more people are turning to organics and green products,” says Edward Watson, owner of EJ Organic Lawn Service in Miami. “There’s been a big increase in my business over the past couple years.”

And for good reason, he says. “Using organic products in your yard is better for the environment,” he argues, “but it’s also better for the kids and even the cats and dogs.”

Earth Day on April 22 will highlight the green movement’s progress. Green businesses in the United States constitute a $175 billion industry that employs nearly two million workers, according to a report issued last year based on U.S. Census Bureau data. In Florida alone, environmental businesses contribute an estimated $9 billion a year to the economy and employ nearly 200,000 workers.

The trend has impacted the building industry with regard to LEED certifications. Miami’s commercial real estate tower — the $310 million, 40-story 600 Brickell at Brickell World Plaza — is the only building in Florida to earn the construction industry’s highest green rating of LEED pre-certified platinum (short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) from the U.S. Green Building Council. The West Kendall Baptist Hospital, which opened last year, received a LEED gold certification (the second highest designation).

Mainstream grocery stores have jumped on the organic-foods bandwagon in a big way. Whole Foods and Fresh Market stores have been in the forefront, but Publix Super Markets now features its GreenWise stores and brands. And regional chains like Winn-Dixie Stores and retail giants Target and Walmart are also grabbing a share of the organic-foods market.

Consumer demand for products with fewer agricultural chemicals and additives is skyrocketing, with $26.7 billion in sales last year in the United States, up from $1 billion in 1990, according to the Organic Trade Association. Nearly three-quarters of families buy organic products at least occasionally, according to a 2009 U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Belief Study.

Now, the green movement is also impacting greenery.

“This all began with food, and it’s trickled down into the lawn and garden sector,” says Paul Tukey, founder of safelawns.org and a former host of People, Places & Plants on HGTV. “These same people who are buying organic food for their kids are saying, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t want toxic pesticides on my lawns and around my children.’ ”

An estimated 12 million households use only natural and organic lawn and garden products, up from five million in 2004, according to the National Gardening Association.

The need to ensure businesses follow green standards has led to nonprofit organizations like Certified Green Partners of Hialeah and the Green Seal group, which certify eco-friendly businesses and products. Certified Green Partners has certified more than 100 businesses and government agencies, based on a range of criteria, including recycling programs, water-conservation efforts, energy-saving techniques and the use of nontoxic products.

The Green Seal has provided a “green” equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal for more than 230 eco-friendly products — including paint, paper, cleaning products — as well as hotels, restaurants and cleaning services.

“If you look at the interest in organic foods and the interest in ingredients in certain kinds of beauty care products and cosmetics…people are getting more interested in what a product is made of and how it affects them and their families,” says Linda Chipperfield, vice president of marketing and outreach for Green Seal

Here’s a closer look at three South Florida businesses that have embraced earth-friendly trends and services.

Car repairs

From the street, Sully Dawson’s Oakland Park auto shop is virtually indistinguishable from the dozens of others in the neighborhood. But look past the tires, fluids and engine parts and you’ll see a distinct difference.

Barrels of recyclable materials — metals, oil, tires and antifreeze — share space in the bays with auto lifts. Organic glass cleaners, wheel degreasers, car-wash detergents and biodegradable synthetic “G-oil” are stacked neatly on shelves. And many fuel products are held in 55-gallon drums — not small, individualized bottles — which cuts down on waste and plastic packaging.

“People can’t believe an auto service center can be green, but that’s what we are,” says Dawson, who opened the Eco-Friendly Auto Repair Center two years ago.

Dawson’s philosophy: Recycle and reuse as much as possible. Tires are converted into playground flooring products. The shop uses a service called Safety-Kleen, which cleans and recycles its used oils. It’s also one of the few to offer customers the choice of re-refined (used) Eco Power oil or a biodegradable alternative made from animal fat — “G-Oil,” certified by the American Petroleum Institute — instead of regular motor oil.

Going green doesn’t have to mean compromising on cost or engine performance, Dawson says.

“I get $24.99 for an oil change, so I’m average for the area, even though everything I do is green,” he says. “And like I tell my customers, the military’s been using re-refined oil for about 15 years. And if it’s good enough for a Hummer that’s in the middle of Afghanistan at 130 degrees, it’s good enough for my customers.”

Dawson says he believes his business is as much about changing attitudes as changing oil.

“I get some people who come in sometimes who say, ‘Are you like Whole Foods?’ And then I explain what we do here.”

But Dawson adds that businesses “can basically make small changes — little tweaks, really — that make huge ripples downstream, in terms of the impact on the environment.”

Dry cleaners

Dean Neiger and his brother Steven, who own and operate Dryeco Cleaners in Sunny Isles, are so committed to being green that they offer an environmental pledge on their web site.

The Neigers, who have been in business three years, say they do not use the toxic chemical solvent perchloroethylene (perc).

Dryeco uses a nontoxic biodegradable acetal-based cleaner called K4, developed by the German company Kreussler. The firm also uses a “wet-cleaning” process that uses gentle detergents on even dry clean-only clothes.

“All the other products we use are biodegradable, too,” Dean says. “Even the plastic bags we use on the clothes … they’re made from recycled materials and completely degradable and biodegradable.”

As for being environmentally friendly, Neiger says, “I just believe it’s the right thing to do. And I think our customers appreciate that.”

Maid service

For Petter and Teresa Nahed, the decision to open an eco-friendly maid service was personal as well as professional.

For years, Petter’s mother, Claudia, suffered from chronic breathing problems and illnesses — conditions the family suspects were related to her work for 10 years as a housekeeper using toxic cleaning chemicals. So when the Naheds opened their own family cleaning business in 2006, they decided to go green.

Today, the couple’s business, Maid Green, employs about a dozen house- and commercial-building cleaners who handle an average of 10 jobs on an average day. All use nontoxic biodegradable mineral- or citrus-based cleaners that the EPA has approved to kill germs and bacteria without harsh chemicals that can contribute to environmental contamination and indoor air-pollution levels that can be up to five times higher than outdoors. The Naheds also use reusable microfiber cloths and low-energy, HEPA filtration vacuums.

“Not using all the chemicals is good for the maids and the customers, too,” Teresa Nahed says.

Maid Green uses mineral-based and citrus-based cleaning products that don’t contain toxic chemicals or bleach. It also uses natural cleaners, such as vinegar and lemon juice, which can be effective disinfectants.

Teresa Nahed says the company’s success embodies a key philosophy behind many green businesses: “You can get the same results from using all-natural products and it’s better for us and our customers in the long run … and it’s better for the environment.”

These are just three of many more kinds of businesses going green.  It can add both good publicity and more dollars to your business bottom line and just makes common sense.

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Keeping the Royalty of the Winter Carnival Looking Good

One of the many community activities we love to participate in annually is the Saint Paul    Winter Carnival. Giving back to the community is very important to us, so it is our pleasure to provide Dry Cleaning for the Senior Royalty’s jackets and capes. Here’s a picture of this year’s court and the program for the Senior Royalty Coronation event.

Thanks again to the Winter Carnival and the Senior Royalty for making us a part of this fantastic event!

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The Dry Cleaning Geeks Have Done it Again!

For the fifth year in a row, we’ve won the “Seal of Approval” for Quality Garment Care and Customer Service by the DLI (Drycleaning and Laundry Institute International).

Great cleaning is a science, and our expert cleaners know that better than anyone.  So, how did we win this prestigious award, you ask?

Before                                                                           After

 Stains (in order, clockwise): Spaghetti Sauce, Nail Polish, Coffee with Cream, Wine, Ink and Egg

First, we were sent a “stain test” by the Judges at the DLI; a white swatch of silk fabric with six very difficult stains. Our job was to remove at least four of them.  Removal of four isn’t easy, five a rarity.

And guess what?  Our cleaning experts removed ALL six stains! Our results were described as coming “from a true commitment to high dry cleaning quality”, a feat accomplished by less than 20 other cleaners around the world.

Duane Schuman, CPW, worked on the silk cloth and helped us achieve this award. Duane has over 15 years of specialty cleaning experience and is just one of our many Dry Cleaning Geeks.

Schuman patiently worked on the difficult white silk test cloth

Join our “Seal of Approval” celebration, and bring in your toughest stained garments – our dry cleaning geeks love a challenge!

 

For more information, check out our press release as well!

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