Hartsdale cleaner invests in the future
On a typical day, the staff at Eco Green Cleaners’ location on Hartsdale Ave. takes in a veritable mountain of dirty
garments, marred with tears, holes and other imperfections. Naturally, they are expected to clean and press them,
quickly returning them to appearing as new as the day they were first purchased.
However, before the business opened its doors on the premises for the first time last August, its
building had to undergo a similar transformation. Unfortunately, this one took a lot longer than a few
days. In fact, it took four months and the staggering sum of about $400,000, a cost considerably
higher than your average dry cleaning bill, to be sure.
According to owner Ray Lee, the investment was worth every penny. “I wanted to do it the right
way,” he explained. “Everybody says they can’t believe it. The place looks so nice. People are coming
in and saying they have never seen a cleaners like this in their entire lives.”
Those who had seen the store beforehand knew Lee had his work cut out for him. The building
itself, which dates back to the 1930s, had fallen into disrepair over the years.
“It was a mess,” Lee admitted. “There were holes in the floor. There was dirt all over the place.
The pipes were leaking.”
The old look didn’t exactly inspire confidence. At some point in the past, the storefront was
changed so that it no longer featured the signature arched windows and architectural style that can be
found on many of the buildings along Hartsdale Ave. Much of the classic, multi-shaded red-colored
bricks had been removed from the entranceway and replaced with a wall of glass encased by metal
siding. Most of the glass surface had been covered up by signage, as well.
Lee wanted something a little sleeker. He oversaw a complete overhaul of the store’s curb
appeal, which began with tearing down the walls. To find the right custom arched windows, he had to
broaden his search out of the state. It was also difficult matching new bricks to the building’s original
ones in order to return it to its original glory.
He wasn’t content with simply fixing up the outside, either. He also added wood accents inside
throughout the front counter area. Lee, who used his ten years of experience as a graphic designer
on the job, needed to team up with a historical architect in order to make his vision a reality.
It was important to him to recapture a little of the historical flavor that figures prominently in the
region. Recapturing the right vintage look was frustrating at times, but the results have been met with
a lot of approval from locals so far. “The town liked our plan,” he noted. “Everybody liked the
Lee, who had previously supervised a $150,000 renovation of another of his Eco Green
Cleaners’ locations, was not surprised when the project came in over budget. He had a lengthy list of
changes, after all. Other projects included tiling floor in the front area, building a special custom fitting
room, insulating pipe, adding air conditioning and heat to keep customers more comfortable and
adding a third skylight and all-L.E.D. lighting. The goal was to create plenty of open space and natural
lighting while maintaining a balance of modern innovation combined with an authentically antique
atmosphere. It doesn’t hurt that the revisions have made the plant extremely efficient.
“Our energy use is really less and our electric bill is not that much, I expect to save about 30%
on utilities this year,” he added.
Being more energy efficient also meant purchasing state-of-the-art dry cleaning machinery. More
than half of Lee’s $400,000 restoration budget was applied toward the purchase of a brand new fleet
of equipment designed for pressing, tensioning, wetcleaning and handling shirts. He also purchased a
GreenEarth Ipura machine for cleaning garments. Lee wanted to champion an alternative solvent
technology that was gentle on his garments as well as the environment. As an added bonus, he was
well aware that GreenEarth Affiliates enjoy access to various marketing materials that positively
emphasize the sustainability of its technology.
“Of course, I really like the GreenEarth solvent, but besides that, just for their marketing alone
has made it a worthwhile investment for me. We’ve put up a lot of GreenEarth posters and that has
helped my image.”
His image isn’t the only thing on the rise; business volume since the renovations has also
increased, which is a good indication that he made a wise choice with a complete Cinderella-esque
makeover of the Hartsdale location. “Since we’ve opened, we have steadily grown our sales,” he said.
“I believe it’s going to grow continuously.”
Learn more at www.ecogreencleaners.net