It’s hard to believe it has been ten years since Destin’s only laundromat transformed into Total Laundry Services. Owner Steven Harley continues to put his heart (and sweat) into the business. Expansion has been gradual–with countless challenges and bumps along the way–but boy, what a journey!
Harley purchased the laundromat ten years ago this month. This past Friday, April 1, he celebrated his business anniversary with a grand opening ceremony for the new dry cleaning facility. Prior to becoming a business owner, Harley was in commercial banking in South Florida and recalls the initial adjustment period:
“No one is ever really 100% prepared to own and operate a business. It was, and still is, a major life commitment and learning experience. Working seven days a week, 360 days a year, is not for the faint of heart.”
During the first five years of ownership, the coin-operated laundromat was completely overhauled and upgraded with new equipment, new air conditioning, new computer system, and new flooring. The dry cleaning division was slowly becoming a major part of the business, while the commercial linen division was poised for substantial growth. Harley notes, “We hired six people in February 2011 in preparation for the increased workload, and we hustled to get them up to speed.”
As if training new employees wasn’t enough, he also opened a second location that spring, in the Uptown Station Shopping Center in Fort Walton Beach. This location continues to offer the same amenities as the Destin location: coin-operated machines, wash/dry/fold service, dry cleaning, and comforter cleaning.
As the demand for commercial linen cleaning increased, Harley felt compelled to expand into a second unit adjacent to his original storefront in the Henderson Beach Business Park. Throughout 2012, Harley improved the space to include a full suite of state of the art commercial linen machines designed to streamline the commercial laundry process. Washers and dryers larger than most cars, a towel folding machine, and an ironer weighing 10,000 pounds are just a few examples of the intricate machinery required to meet demand.
This newly increased capacity allowed Total Laundry Services to grow its base of hotel and condominium relationships, which today include the Courtyard and Residence Inn by Marriott, Compass Resorts, Five Star Beach Properties, and Brooks & Shorey Resorts. With the addition of several cutting-edge machines, the commercial linen facility processes over two MILLION pounds of laundry per year!
Beginning in February 2015, after nine years of outsourcing his customers’ dry cleaning, Harley felt it was time to expand once again. It was finally time to build his own full-service dry cleaning facility.Harley has wanted to offer his customers on-site dry cleaning ever since he started the business. “It’s been a long time coming,” he says, “and we couldn’t be more excited!”
The business, guided by Harley’s forward thinking and entrepreneurial spirit, has heavily invested in the latest technology, which sets the business apart from local competitors. For example, Total Laundry Services’ dry cleaning plant is now the only provider in town offering same-day service. They are the only dry cleaner to use heat sealed bar codes, which translates to 100% order accuracy, since owner information and cleaning history are saved electronically over time.
They also offer a unique texting program, which allows their computer to automatically text a customer when their order is ready, along with the amount due. The business also offers customers an automatic loyalty discount. For every $100 spent, a $5 coupon is printed – no punch card needed. Military (active or retired) always receive 10% off any service.
But wait, there’s more. Total Laundry Services is now the only truly “green” dry cleaner on the Emerald Coast, thanks to the GreenEarth Cleaning Company. Their proprietary solvent, GreenEarth, has no hazardous chemicals and is safe for our water, soil, and air. It is also colorless and odorless. Harley adds, “Local, eco-conscious customers should have a greener choice, especially since we live in such a beautiful area of the country. When shopping for a dry cleaning machine and the corresponding solvent, I knew this area needed an alternative choice. No other dry cleaner on the Emerald Coast uses this proprietary solvent.”
The GreenEarth Cleaning process uses liquid silicone in place of petrochemicals. Essentially liquefied sand, silicone is non-hazardous and non-toxic to the environment. When released to the environment, it safely breaks down into three natural elements: sand, and trace amounts of water and carbon dioxide.
GreenEarth is safe for people, too. If you wanted to, you could safely rub it on your skin. In fact, you probably already do. Liquid silicone is the base ingredient in many everyday shampoos, conditioners and lotions.
Because clothes cleaned the GreenEarth way aren’t bathed in perchloroethylene or other petrochemical solvents, they come back fresh and clean without the notorious and unpleasant “dry cleaning” odor. GreenEarth is also very gentle on clothes. You can actually see and feel the difference it makes. Colors don’t fade and whites don’t gray or yellow the way they do in traditional dry cleaning, even after repeated cleaning. Everything feels better too. Fabrics are smooth and silky, and sweaters feel soft and supple again.
As his 10 year business anniversary passes, Harley reflects, “We started with one employee–my sister, Michelle–in 2006. We now employ over 40 people. It’s nice to see our hard work pay off in the form of satisfied customers and job creation.”
Harley himself wears many hats. In addition to being the proprietor, he’s often seen driving one of a fleet of four laundry trucks (each emblazoned with a cartoon washer named Sudsy smiling on each side); hoofing heavy bags of laundry to customers’ cars; scanning dry cleaning items; and even mopping floors.
Michelle Meagher, Harley’s sister and first employee, shares, “As a college athlete, I had a lot of respect for our associate head coach because he would run with our team. Steve does the same thing with his employees. He ‘runs’ alongside them. He truly cares about his business and the people he hires, and in doing so he attracts quality workers. His employees are like extended family members.”
The commercial linen and dry cleaning expansion–a $1.5 million investment altogether–represent more than just a financial obligation to Harley. They represent an entrepreneurial dream come true. Meagher contributes, “I’m so proud of my brother and what he has accomplished in ten years, not only for the services his business provides, but for the opportunities he has provided his employees and the surrounding communities.”
Harley has created year-round positions for numerous employees, even student guest workers in the summertime, with hourly rates beginning well above minimum wage. Over the past ten years he has employed more than 120 people, and even keeps in contact with several of them.
To commemorate their 10th anniversary, Total Laundry Services is offering 10% off all services (dry cleaning, wash/dry/fold, and comforter cleaning) for the entire month of April. A celebratory open house was held last Friday at the Destin location to thank employees and customers for their continued support.