Here’s a news flash: A lot of people aren’t in love with their dry cleaner. In fact, according to the Better Business Bureau, dry-cleaning services are among the most frequent targets of consumer complaints in the Twin Cities.
Dan Miller understands the dissatisfaction. About a year ago, he brought a comforter to his local dry cleaner. “The guy was smoking a cigarette outside,” says Miller. “Inside, it smelled like chemicals and there were plastic bags everywhere. I asked how long it would take. He said two weeks.”
That’s when Miller had something of an epiphany: “This industry is like the Wild West.”
But Miller, a business consultant by training (he was working for McKinsey & Company when he had his revelation), also recognized an opportunity. Couldn’t someone build a better dry cleaner? He began traveling the country, methodically studying the business, even attending the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute in Maryland.
This month, he unveils the culmination of his research: Mulberrys Garment Care, which will include home delivery service and a retail location in St. Louis Park.
The goal isn’t just to create a different sort of dry cleaner, with a pleasant in-store atmosphere (think Starbucks), convenient hours, and rigorous quality control. It’s also to create a cleaner one: Unlike traditional dry cleaners, which employ the highly toxic solvent perchloroethylene (commonly known as perc)—or even like many putatively green cleaners, which use a slightly less-toxic chemical, siloxane—Mulberrys will process clothes with pressurized carbon dioxide, a method approved by the EPA and Greenpeace. As a solvent, carbon dioxide rubs out stains and doesn’t shrink fibers. More important, if spilled, it dissipates into the air.
Says Miller: “We’ll be the only cleaner to clean clothes with something that doesn’t have to be taken away in a hazardous-waste truck.