A model of success

Exterior of Model Cleaners in Charleroi

Editor’s note: This is a weekly series focusing on the importance of buying local.

Cleaning and sanitization are currently of utmost importance, but one of the first things struggling businesses cut are these types of services.

The cleaning service industry has taken some hits since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived earlier this year.

Jessica Shrader, an independent operator of Jessica’s Sonshine Cleaning in Monessen, said she just recently lost two of her bigger customers because of cuts.

However, Shrader has maintained most of her customer base, which includes banks and office spaces in Bentleyville, Speers, Elizabeth and around the Mon Valley.

“I do basic office cleaning, and also clean around their bathrooms and kitchens, remove the garbage. For the most part, I’m doing OK,” Shrader said. “I did recently lose two of my bigger jobs, in Charleroi and Washington.

“I feel bad because the one in Charleroi – Model Cleaners – felt bad for me when they decided to have one of their long-time employees do the cleaning in an effort not to lay off that employee. I understand it.

“It’s ironic that the very things that has impacted cleaning services – COVID-19 – also has created a greater need for cleaning, sanitation and so on.”

Dan LaCarte, president of the family-owned dry-cleaning business Model Cleaners, pointed to the national dip in dry cleaning services, which is at 45% since the onset of the pandemic. LaCarte said Model Cleaners has seen about a 40% decrease in business during the same time.

LaCarte said Model Cleaners’ diversification has helped it survive and gives much hope for the future.

Model Cleaners also provides uniform services, apparel and is involved with Stoney’s beer.

He added while the company has provided pick up services in the past, a greater focus is now placed on that part of the business, while it is also promoting its pickup, wash, dry and fold program.

“If you see a guy wearing a sport coat these days, you almost do a double-take,” LaCarte said. “People just aren’t going out of the home to work as much, not going out to eat, or to shows. Gatherings are limited. The need for dry cleaning just isn’t there.

“We are focusing on picking up clothes at the home, contact free, we pick up people’s underwear, T-shirts, jogging pants. They are wearing something. We pick up a bag for $35 a bag, launder the clothes, dry them and fold them and bring them back.”

LaCarte also said Model Cleaners is moving toward further diversification by including fire restoration services in the near future.

Model maintains two plants, one in Allison Park, which services the North hills area and handles about 2,000 pieces a week and in Charleroi, which handles about 10,000 pieces a week. LaCarte said the company is operating 14 dry cleaning locations.

“We are going to re-purpose into fire restoration,” he said. “Fires, wind, floods, those things happen. We’re going to make that part of our diversified business.

“We’ve had to layoff 35 people. The last two months have been a little better, but we have a way to go.”

PT Cleaning Services, based in Waynesburg, has reported an uptick in business from the start of the pandemic.

Kevin Krainbucher and his wife, Kelli, started their business a little more than a quarter of a century ago, and have built it into a strong commercial cleaning service.

Kevin Krainbucher said his company lost “five to eight” customers at the beginning of the pandemic, but have about 40 customers currently.

“We lost some of our non-essential business we worked with,” he said. “Some of the (cleaning services) industry has struggled at times. But we’ve been helped by banks, gasoline stations and bulk fuels because they have increased cleaning.

“I think the pandemic has caused people to consider cleaning better and deeper and made us all more aware of germs and how to deal with them.”

Larry Simpson, who operates Simpson Cleaning Service, a Washington-based family-owned business, said despite losing a few customers his company has “made out pretty well.”

“People are more cognizant of how to disinfect and more into cleaning than ever before.”

Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can contact Chris Slota at 724-225-1326 or by email at chris@belocal.net. Discount cards are available at the Observer-Reporter and Almanac office, 122 S. Main St., Washington.

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