- Created on Thursday, 02 June 2005 17:08
- Written by Susan Capparelle
Austin, Texas – With just $7,500 each, Gary Dufresne and Kevin Lindgren invested in the purchase of a commercial laundry plant with revenues of 15-million a year. Without much money between them, Dufresne and Lindgren drew on their experience and hard-working attitudes to attract the right backer in 2003. The rest is a monumental success story.“We took a huge risk and it paid off,” said Gary Dufresne, CEO. “The total cost of the facility was around 5 million. Now, all our debt is paid off sowe must be doing right.”
The enormous 126,000-square-foot plant currently processes about 25 million pounds per year – half of its capacity. But the most unique feature of the facility is the plant layout. “It’s three plants under one roof,” Dufresne said. “Most plants have some linen and some uniform, or some health care and food and beverage but not many will do all three like us.”
Dufresne learned the business from route driver up to regional director during 13 years with a textile rental firm in California before being appointed vice president of operations at Tartan Textile Services. Tartan Textile Services, the Houston-based company previously owned the Austin plant that is now home to Texas Linen. Lindgren, company president, had a newspaper industry background before beginning work at Tartan in human resources and becoming vice president of that division. Both men saw incredible potential in the Austin plant. Its size, capacity and location along the I-35 corridor were major plusses.
Their familiarity with the market, first hand operational knowledge of the industry and a promising business prospectus convinced asset based, private lender Briar Capital LP to back them in the plant’s purchase bid. “When you’ ve got two operators that don’t have a lot of cash it’s a way to get an entry into the business itself,” said Dufresne.
Today, Texas Linen has 203 employees and branches in San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Houston. Its customer base stretches from Waco to the Rio Grande Valley. The plant processes 500,000 pounds of laundry a week from hospitals, hotels, motels, restaurants and industrial uniforms.
Just prior to their purchase, Tartan had spent in excess of 1-million dollars on new equipment for the Austin plant so Dufresne and Lindgren were able to ‘take over and just flip the switch.’ The only changes they’ve made so far are an expansion into uniform processing, the addition of route accounting and a new water reclamation system last December.
TURNING A PROFIT
According to Dufresne the company turned a profit in the second month of operation and started to return notes to the lender by the fifth month. “Texas Linen hasn’t even begun to work yet,” said Lindgren, president. “The plant is currently operating profitably but we have an enormous growth potential.”
The plant has also caught the attention of the city of Austin in the form of operational awards. Recently it received the "Excellence in Pretreatment" award from the city’s wastewater department. The facility uses Ellis’ DAF system to pre-treat their water. It was also awarded the "ICI Water Conservation Award" from the Austin Water Conservation Department. They currently recycle 1.2 million gallons a month using Aqua Recycle’s machinery.
On the food and beverage washroom side two Milnor CBW’s, a 16 MOD and a 12 MOD, handle washing goods assisted by 6 Milnor washer/extractors, four 450-lb and two, 125-lb. Five Milnor dryers complete the cycle. An E-Tech E-Rail System moves goods throughout the facility. Seven American Super Sylon Ironers handle flat work along with folders including a Master Eclipse, a Lavatec small piece folder and a Jensen Constellation Sheet folder. On the healthare side, 2-Milnor 11 Mod CBW, and 8 Milnor 220-lb dryers work with a Milnor 450-lb Staphguard to wash goods. Two Challenge Cook dryers complete the process. Also used for flatwork are the Jensen Constellation sheet folder, a Braun small piece folder and two Jensen blanket folders.
Among the many challenges facing the partners are merchandize and labor control, building back revenue stream and maintaining the customer base. “You’ve got measurements for the first two i.e. with merchandize control soil supply and clean demand need to match,” said Lindgren. Another challenge is changing the attitude of the employees and customers. “We are another group of new owners,” said Dufresne. “We had to improve quality and service quickly.”
Dufresne and Lindgren have a 7 year business plan that emphasizes quality service and on time deliveries. “Our biggest goal is building revenue stream,” said Dufresne. “As you go through generations of owners you may lose customers. When we purchased this plant it was at the lowest level of revenue. Revenue has since increased about 5%. But there are no short cuts to success,” he adds. “You make your own luck through hard work and perseverance.”
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