May 2008

Great American Cleaners

Author: Kate Hanzalik

People are talking about Great American Cleaners. Sales are better than ever with help from word-of-mouth buzz at cocktail parties and other gatherings, and the business has steadily become the quintessential cleaning company on Hilton head Island. So, to accommodate the growth, owners Rick and Patty Oels recently moved from Northridge Plaza to Port Royal Plaza near Sam’s club and opened a spacious facility in Bluffton Park Crescent, on the corner of Simmonsville Road and the Bluffton Parkway. With new top-of-the line machines, more space and a highly regarded crew of workers, customers are knocking at their doors.

“They just bring in one or two items and give us a try. And then they come back.” Said Patty.

The Oels have owned Great American Cleaners for seven years, but the company has been around since the inception of Northridge Plaza , nearly 18 years ago. Rick and Patty closed the Northridge store and the Moss Creek drop-off store at the end of Dec. 2007.

“This is like the Taj Mahal compared to where we were,” said Patty. The customer service area didn’t go below 95 degrees during the summer at Northridge.

The Port Royal store is bright, airy, and more comfortable for the customer and employees. As for the Bluffton store, not only does it have a spot cooling in the front and above the pressers, but new top of the line 125 pound washer and dryer in addition to the existing equipment. There are also new double leg and double toppers to press wet clean and dry clean pants. A new Sailstar 80 pound dry cleaning machine is used along with the existing 40 pound machine. Screw conveyors makes moving clothes from each department to the inspection and bagging areas, easier and more efficient. With all of the added extras, they are able to serve more customers and still maintain the same quality.

“We have a lot of room for growth. We could probably do five times as much as we do now, “ said Rick. The crew already takes on more than 800 dress shirts and 1,300 pounds of dry cleaning every week!

Their success makes sense with the Oels’ kitschy motto: “Where quality and serving hang together.” Rick gets all of the employees and his work shirts imprinted with the saying, but the real proof can be seen in the work they do.

All store locations are open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. – 1p.m. And the couple works tirelessly: 12-hour days five days as week and 8 hours on Saturday. Stores are closed on Sundays. Each employee at the company has at least 15 years experience.

The Bluffton store offers same day service with a small fee on top of the prince of cleaning. Port Royal offers next day service with the additional pricing. Normal turn around time is three business days.

A punch card is an “in house” discount card. It has approximately $100.00 on the card. Each time a customer picks-up, their card is punched. When the card is completed, $10.00 is taken off of their order.

Brides, look no further…
Brides coming to Hilton Head Island for a destination wedding, are recommended by their wedding consultant to use Great American to press their gowns. Sometimes, brides coming here from out of state call in advance to make an appointment. Wedding grown cleaning is one of Great American specialties. Extreme care is given to each gown due to their delicate material and embellishments. The Oels’ have a consultant with thirty years experience in dry cleaning they can call upon if needed. Once the gown is cleaned, they are placed in a room specifically for wedding gowns. After the bride approves of her wedding gown, it came be boxed fro storage.

Store Locations:
4454 Bluffton Park Crescent, Suite 301
Port Royal Plaza, Suite B-2

Cleaning Demystified
Have you ever stopped to think what really happens when you drop your clothes off at the Cleaners? CH2 was given a behind the scenes tour of Great American Cleaners and the experience was fascinating. Eleven specialists, each with at least fifteen years of experience, press garments at their respective stations, every machine an integral part of a meticulous step-by-step process

Collar Shirts (Wet Cleaning)
1. Shirts are divided by color (light or dark) and the type of starch requested by the customer (none, light, medium, heavy)
2. Cuffs and collars are scrubbed with a heavy duty stain remover, prior to laundering. After laundering the shirts are starched.
3. Cuffs and collars are pressed first. A double shirt buck presses the body of the shirt while steam blows out the rest of the sleeve. Each shirt is then individually touched up by hand pressing

Chinos and jeans (Wet Cleaning/with Starch)
1. Chinos and Jeans are spotted or soaked to remove stains.
2. They are then laundered and starched.
3. Chinos and Jeans are pressed on double hot head press and topper.

All Dry Cleaning (Dresses, Blouses, Skirts, Suits, Jackets, Trousers, and Sweaters)
1. First, all garments are separated for spots. They are spotted prior to dry cleaning.
2. Garments are separated according to colors (light and dark). Light colors and dark colors are never dry cleaned together. They are weighed (not exceeding 80lbs) and loaded into the dry cleaning machine that resembles a washer. Clothes are cleaned in a chemical called perchoroethylene solvent (perc).
3. When the garments come out of dry cleaning, they are hung and sent to the steam pressers.
4. Finished garments are placed on another series of screw conveyors and sent to inspection and bagging

Each garment is inspected no less than four times throughout the process. The team tries at least two times to remove stains, and it that doesn’t work, they will attach a “sorry” card to the item. If clothes are left, which happens more often than one would think, the Oels are required by law to keep them fore one year. After that, Patty donates them to charity.

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