In a market crowded with national chains, how do you make a success of an independent, high street dry cleaning business?
We met Gary Scholey, owner of Padiham favourite, Status Dry Cleaners, to find out what sets the business apart.
When Gary left the army, his first job was with a dry cleaning chain – but he was already keen to start his own business. Three years later in 1992, deciding he could do a much better job away from the constraints of big business, he opened Status Dry Cleaners on Padiham high street.
“I wanted to offer a much more personal service,” he explained. “I started from scratch, but the idea was simple. I felt people would value better service and someone prepared to do that bit more to make their clothes look great, even after something like a red wine disaster.”
Twenty-six years on, Gary has overcome his fair share of turbulence but the business is still going strong – not least because Gary has stuck to his principles throughout.
“We’ve seen big changes over the years,” he said. “People don’t bring duvets in any more, they just buy cheap new ones, and the smoking ban definitely hit the industry. But you adapt. You keep the focus on friendly customer service and on doing a great job every time. It’s even more important to do that when times are tough.”
The fact that Status Dry Cleaners’ longevity is essentially down to word of mouth recommendation - the business has never had a website and Gary doesn’t promote it on social media - speaks volumes about the service the business delivers.
The nature of that service is clear whenever Gary talks about the business.
“It’s not so much about the money, though it’s obviously important,” he said. “For me, the real pleasure is in meeting people. I’m proud not so much about how long we’ve been here, but because of the faith people put in us.
“If someone brings something in that is important to them and has been ruined, they trust us to sort it. People recognise we go the extra mile, which the chains might not, and that is the real secret to our success.”
“Since we are potentially dealing with items that are really special to people we need the reassurance that we have the adequate insurance cover in place should something go wrong. Therefore, business insurance for me is cover that provides complete peace of mind.”
These days Gary has a team behind him – a manageress, a part time presser, and a general assistant – and his enthusiasm at having built the business through sheer hard work and perseverance is undimmed.
“We built something from scratch that people valued enough to come back to time and again, for 26 years and counting,” he explained. “It’s a good feeling to know we did it ourselves and made it work.”
Looking to the future, Gary admits a change of scene may be on the horizon, though his commitment to the high street remains.:“Maybe in ten years I’ll be doing something different. I’m a bit of a frustrated chef so maybe I’ll be running a café or restaurant. Who knows!”