Tessa Love Reporter, San Francisco Business Times
Dan Miller and Kevin Kneafsey wore a lot of suits. And that meant a lot of trips to the dry cleaners.
“I was consistently disappointed with my experiences,” Minneapolis-based Miller said. “From the fact that I had to leave the office early to get there, or the stores smelled like chemicals, or the staff was grumpy, or it wouldn’t have a website.”
“I just said to myself, ‘There’s got to be a better way.”
Across the country in San Francisco, Kneafsey was having a similar epiphany. So in 2008, he founded GreenStreets, an artisan dry cleaning and laundry service with 10 locationsacross the Bay Area. In 2009, Miller founded Mulberrys, a similar concept with six locations based in Minneapolis.
This month, the two have joined forces: Mulberrys has acquired GreenStreets to become the first national artisan dry cleaning chain in the country. But more than that, the Mulberrys/GreenStreets deal marks a big change for the lackluster laundry industry.
“Dry cleaning is one of the last industries that hasn’t been modernized,” Miller said. “A lot of people have tried to change the dry cleaning industry by picking off one thing or another. ‘We’re going to have a mobile app” or ‘We’re going to be green.’ What we do is control the end to end process.”
Unlike other disrupters in this space, Mulberrys is not just a platform to outsource the cleaning. The company not only washes the clothes itself, it also employs its own drivers, who work full time and have benefits.
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Mulberrys focused on providing top-notch customer service, advanced technology, sustainability and “old world craftsmanship.” The 16 storefronts take on a boutique appearance and offer 24-hour drop off and drive-through service at some locations, as well as on-demand delivery, wood hangers, collar supports and more. Customers can track their orders online and via the company’s mobile app, and can request an e-pickup to avoid lines.
Behind the scenes, the onsite cleaners have automated assembly and bagging systems, and the company is completely carbon-neutral: The detergents are toxin-free, the storefronts are powered by wind energy and all the packaging used is either biodegradable, made from recycled material or is recyclable. But in the end, Miller said, the cleaning takes precedence.
“At the end of the day, you can have all the fancy bells and whistles but if the clothes aren’t done well, aren’t pressed and cleaned well, it’s all kind of worthless,” he said.
With this acquisition, Mulberrys now pulls in $10 million in revenue, serves over 500,000 customers and cleans over a million items per year.
Kneafsey will spend most of 2017 focused on converting all the GreenStreets’ locations to Mulberrys, which requires some storefront renovations. The company’s Filbert St. location is currently undergoing a facelift, and Kneafsey anticipates having all the Bay Area locations done by the end of 2017, as well as perhaps a few new spots – the company has locations in San Francisco and the Peninsula but none in the North or East Bay.
In the meantime, Miller will continue scouting out other major metropolitan areas to break into. His goal is to have another target set by the end of 2017, whether it’s Los Angeles, Dallas or Chicago.
“We feel that if you can make something work in Minneapolis, San Francisco and Dallas – very different cities – then you’re probably going to be successful throughout the country,” he said.