Your Valet celebrates 50 years of caring cleaning »
By Mike Gorrell The Salt Lake Tribune First published May 02 2011 10:14PM
Updated May 15, 2011 12:01AM
Bountiful • Working for a big oil company in Casper, Wyo., was not the ideal job Jim Patterson envisioned after graduating from the University of Colorado as a geologist. He and wife Suzy decided they would be better off being their own bosses, so they checked out several franchises and ended up going into the dry-cleaning business. That was in 1961. Fifty years later, they are still at it, running Your Valet Fine Dry Cleaning. The enterprise involves five locations, including one in Bountiful, four home-delivery routes and 65 employees. “We feel like we’re part of the community,” Patterson said, recalling how he converted a neighborhood store, Five Points Market, into the Bountiful shop in 1963. The neighborhood has changed a lot since then — the Five Points shopping mall, for instance, has come and gone — but his dry cleaning store remains a community fixture. That’s because the company has treated customers well and, technologically, kept changing with the times, said Kent Sprik, manager of the Bountiful store for 18 years and Your Valet’s operations manager. “You have to like people to serve people, and then it gets into your blood,” said Sprik, noting that building personal relationships isn’t all that difficult because “you learn a lot about people through their clothes.” Clothing has changed quite a bit in the half-century since the Pattersons entered the business.
Back in the day, dry cleaners took in mostly single solid colors made out of 100 percent cotton. Now there are all sorts of blends featuring multiple colors. What’s more, Jim Patterson said, “we deal with more ladies’ clothing because there are more ladies in the work force. When we started, it used to be mostly men’s pants, jackets and ties.” Even more remarkable has been the change in cleaning processes. Long gone are the days of using petroleum-based products. Suzy Patterson noted that Your Valet was one of Utah’s first dry cleaners to embrace the more environmentally friendly “GreenEarth” cleaning method, which uses a nontoxic silicone that breaks down into sand, carbon dioxide and water. “It’s more expensive, but the product is good — better for the employees, better for the customers and better for the environment,” Jim Patterson said. “And it’s a lot gentler on the clothes,” Sprik added. Your Valet also scores points with customers, Suzy Patterson noted, with its emphasis on recycling plastic hangers and ongoing efforts to replace plastic clothing covers with garment bags made from recycled materials. Proof of the loyalty engendered by this approach is evident in the many familiar faces that come through the door or pull up to the dry cleaners’ drive-up window.”We’re serving the children and grandchildren of some of our original customers,” Jim Patterson said.