Bridgestone Cleaners Brings Innovative, Green Touch To Garment Care »
Ken Kinzer, founder of Bridgestone Cleaners in Cobble Hill. Credit Joanna Prisco
At a glance, a degree in hotel and restaurant management and a career as a chef in the airline industry might appear misplaced on the resume of the President of the National Cleaners Association—a trade coalition serving dry cleaners small and large.
“There are actually a lot of similarities,” says Ken Kinzer, who is also the founder of Bridgestone Cleaners. His business has been removing spots, restoring silk blouses and saving other splattered textiles in Cobble Hill since 1983. But its storefront recently received a facelift, and its technological approach to cleaning clothes is practically Jetsonian—leading some neighbors to mistake the shop for a new addition.
“I hardly recognized the place—it looks great!” says a woman walking up to the counter at 175 Court Street.
The waiting area is a portrait in minimalist furniture, bright lighting, and pristine surfaces—far removed from the cluttered, humid stereotype most city dwellers might expect.
But Kinzer is the first to admit that he doesn’t run a typical dry cleaning operation, and that his prices don’t lend themselves to casualwear. Unless, of course, you tend toward the $100 tees sold at Barney’s Co-Op on Atlantic Avenue. Then, as with any investment purchase, he believes you should properly care for it so it lasts for years to come.
In order to do that, Kinzer suggests a combination of attention to detail and that cutting-edge technology mentioned earlier.
Unlike average cleaners, Bridgestone offers a range of services from dry cleaning to wet cleaning to hand washing, depending upon the needs of the soiled item. But Kinzer’s latest—and favorite—method is using a non-toxic GreenEarth cleaning solution made from liquefied sand. The process gently aggravates a stain away from the material it has bonded to, while being whipped around a centrifuge-like container. Not only are the results more efficient and earth friendly, he says, but odorless too.
Other tech-y updates are apparent in the DUMBO plant’s tracking system: Instead of stapling collars with a numbered tag, pieces are coded with an invisible bar so that they can be monitored throughout processing—and the garment’s history recorded for future visits.
“When it comes back to us we can see how many times it’s been in, what the previous issues were, everything,” says Kinzer, clearly delighted.
Client needs range from preventing wear on expensive suits to proper care for unique couture pieces; refreshing home décor items, such as pillows, curtains and comforters; and the seasonal cleaning of Ugg boots and designer gear.
In fact, Kinzer receives regular e-mail alerts from the National Cleaners Association’s Garment Analysis Laboratory, flagging high-end pieces that are known to bleed color or exhibit other defects when cleaned. That way, he and his technicians will be able to spot one if a client wants it serviced and discuss how to approach it best.
One recent e-mail cited Louis Vuitton black jeans that became blotchy and experienced “localized fading” at the hemlines and pocket edges. “This condition is known as dye crocking,” the e-mail read, describing the process as when dyestuffs break away from the fabric “due to the incomplete penetration of the yarns.”
While customers investing in high fashion would likely be distressed to learn that an article was prone to damage, other Bridgestone customers of a certain sensibility intentionally stain or destroy pieces worth thousands of dollars.
“It’s called ‘trash the dress,’” Kinzer explains, describing a wedding photography trend in which brides jump into the ocean or tumble around a muddy hayfield in order to capture a dramatic shot.
Can you restore a wedding dress after something like that? Kinzer smiles.
“It’s all knowing what type of stain you are dealing with, the material, and how long it has been there,” he says with a knowing laugh, noting that he has cleaned bridal gowns both for posterity and for posting on eBay.
The bizarre rituals of popular culture and the cleaning challenges they present leave Kinzer unruffled.
But he did recount one frenzied shift several years back, when a cruise ship docked in the harbor and Bridgestone was hired to clean more than 100 entertainers’ costumes and employee uniforms in less than 24 hours.
“That was a crazy day,” he says, eyes wide. “But we got it done. Really great costumes.”