GreenEarth Affiliates In The News
Owner Sayan takes advantage of film trade opportunities
MEDFORD, Mass. — When one meets a dry cleaner, one asks what niche business he or she does besides retail cleaning. Typically, the answer is alterations, or wholesale, or commercial, or insurance restoration, or wedding gowns. But Farshad Sayan, owner of Clevergreen Cleaners, answers, “Movies.”
Huh? Sayan has a friend in the movie business in Los Angeles who spends her time reviewing about-to-be-released films. With the proliferation of movies being made in the Boston area—The Way Way Back, The Judge and American Hustle are a few recent examples—Sayan reasoned that the industry needs an on-site dry cleaner to keep their costumes clean and well-maintained.
He prompted his Hollywood friend to suggest using Clevergreen for their cleaning needs. One costume supervisor tried them, then another, then another. Sayan now has a movie trade. In fact, a recent film netted Clevergreen $35,000 in revenue. “This movie trade is irregular, but I can figure that movie volume will be 3-5% of total volume,” he says, “and it’s profitable.”
With extensive experience under its belt, the company knows how to handle this sort of client. Sayan handles the pickup and delivery himself. He maintains a low-key, unobtrusive presence on the set, dealing either with the costume supervisor or his/her assistant. Flexibility is essential.
“The movie people give me outfits and say there’s no rush,” Sayan explains. “When I get back to the plant, there’s a call saying they must redo the scene and need the outfits immediately.”
When that happens, the cleaning team stops what it’s doing and processes the costumes.
By now, Sayan and crew are proactive. They turn over movie outfits as speedily as they can, regardless of the date needed.
It is sometimes a challenge to clean these outfits. Recently, the cleaner had to figure out how to clean a fox’s outfit without ruining it. Pretty much, every costume is unique, and because of the individualized jobs, Clevergreen obtains a good price for the work.
“We’re not (offering) discount prices,” Sayan says. “But we will make your job easier.”
That seems to work, and costumers keep coming back to him.
The company plant is in a residential area of Medford, a city on the outskirts of Boston. The 5,000-square-foot plant makes for a comfortable workspace. The basement has 12-foot-high ceilings, which helps keep the place cool, and is good for storage.
Clevergreen’s three drop stores—Beacon Hill, Station Landing, and Kendall Square—are strategically placed to win affluent trade. Kendall Square, for instance, is the home of high-tech industry in Boston. Many workers bring their clothes in for cleaning on their way to work. The flagship store, on Charles Street in Beacon Hill, home of Boston Brahmins, does $500,000 revenue. Under negotiation is a fourth drop store in the South End. Altogether, Clevergreen’s annual sales are approaching $1.2 million. That’s after being in business only eight years.
Sayan is firm on seeing that his drop stores obtain a 20-year lease. And these are not the kind of leases under which the landlord adjusts the rent after three years. Sayan’s pitch to the landlord: “We want to become part of the neighborhood and that takes time. You must provide us that time.”
At Clevergreen, good service is essential to keeping its customers happy. Its truck picks up and delivers every day at all locations, so same-day service is standing operating procedure. The company also offers 3-hour rush service at a premium price. The staffers at the drop stores and plant counter are all trained to be professional yet personal, Sayan says. “I encourage them to put themselves in the customer’s shoes. This helps them to be more understanding and sympathetic.”
Sayan admits that hiring the right people is key. “One of the hardest things is to get a self-motivated drop store manager who cares about his/her customer,” he explains. “It’s a matter of hiring people who I think will work out (or) getting rid of them promptly if they aren’t doing the job and replacing them with someone who will. And then when you get the right person, doing whatever is necessary to keep him/her happy.”
Sayan once co-owned another dry cleaner, Tuttle Cleaners, for many years, but he sold his share of that business in 2006, and many staffers came over to work for him at Clevergreen.
Another of Sayan’s people-management principles is communication. “When something is going on, I’ll say to the person that I can’t help you unless I know what’s the matter.” They often open up to him, he says, allowing him to concoct a solution.
Thanks to his people skills, Sayan maintains a loyal team. His driver has been an employee for 24 years, the plant seamstress 31. Altogether, there are 25 full- and part-time workers.
Sayan is quite sensitive to the needs of employees with children. Accordingly, he maintains a child-friendly permissiveness and has allocated a space in the plant for children. It has toys, a large-screen TV and comfortable couches, wherein a child could be entertained for hours. Yet it is right out in the open. “We understand that parents might have babysitter problems with their children, and it is perfectly OK to bring them here for the day,” he says.
Another worker accommodation is flex-time scheduling. That means if someone comes in late, he/she is not chastised. Rather, there is a workload to get through, and it’s that person’s responsibility to do the work.