At Vapor Sudden Service Cleaners, a change in focus helps keep the environment as spiffy as the clothes.
Duke Quinones, owner of Vapor Sudden Service Cleaners in Monterey, has been in the laundering business his whole life. He bought the business from his father 45 years ago – Quinones was 32 at the time – and has seen the industry continue to evolve.
“Over 90 percent of clothes purchased in the United States are made overseas now,” Quinones says.
The challenge with that, he says, is that the fabrics are often not tested for dye loss or shrinkage.
That means cleaners have to figure out those variables for themselves, and that often means having to do spot tests for dye loss so they don’t ruin a garment.
“The downside of the industry is that it’s become tough,” he says. “I have a table that every day we put questionable garments on.”
An upside, though, is the development of environmentally friendly dry cleaning solvents, and in that, Quinones was a pioneer: About 18 years ago, when he moved the business from its old Del Monte Avenue spot to its current location on 10th Street near the Naval Postgraduate School, Quinones took a leap.
He decided to invest in a GreenEarth dry cleaning system – which utilizes liquid silicone (in essence, liquid sand) – that at the time was a brand new technology.
“When we went to GreenEarth, we were 10th in the world to start using it, and we were only the one in the state of California at that time,” Quinones says. “It was a big risk – it wasn’t proven yet.”
Watching the operation at Vapor on a recent afternoon, the cleaning area is abuzz with employees using machines to press shirts, pants and when requested, adding creases. Garments move through processes with seamless efficiency.
Whenever there is a questionable garment – one where it’s unclear how it should be treated – it’s put on a table for Quinones to inspect it.
Quinones, who runs the business with his wife, Patt, and son, Greg, says part of his business’ success can be attributed to the experience of their employees, some of whom have been there for 25 years.
“Most of the employees here are really good at what they do,” Quinones says. “It’s about treating people like you want to be treated. Customers, and employees, too.”
Quinones, who is now 76, says it’s likely his son will one day take over the business, but he has no plans to retire anytime soon.
“It’s a purpose,” he says. “For me, it’s not work anymore. It’s in my blood, and I enjoy making customers happy, and I enjoy challenges.”