When Islanders Greg and Megan Carroll decided to open a Lapels Dry Cleaning franchise in Vineyard Haven, they assumed it would fill a need for on-Island service. What they did not expect when the doors opened at their new State Road location on August 15 at Pine Village Shoppes was just how big the demand would be.
“I didn’t realize that it was going to be this big of a niche,” Megan Carroll said Friday. “We had an idea that it would be busy, but we didn’t expect to be as busy as it has been this past week.”
Open a little over a week, the business is already seeing a steady flow of customers. That flow should increase with the announcement this week that Vineyard Cleaners, the Island’s only other dry cleaning business, will close its doors October 1.
“I think it’s going to do very well,” Ms. Carroll said. “We’ve had a very positive response for the first week. We’ve had people who have been on the Vineyard for three weeks and this was their last week, saying, ‘I come here every summer, and now that I know that you guys are here, I can pack less clothes.’”
Ms. Carroll said the fact that all garments are cleaned on site allows for a quicker turnaround and a competitive advantage.
“The established dry cleaner in Vineyard Haven has had to transport customers’ garments to be cleaned to Cape Cod, thus creating a longer processing time to get a cleaned garment back to their customers,” Ms. Carroll said. “There was no option for same-day or even next-day service here.”
She said their business has a turnaround time of up to three days.
“On most items, if you get your order in by 9 am and need it the same day, we can have it done for pickup after 5 pm, because everything is done here,” she said.
The Lapels operation also prides itself on being environmentally friendly. They use what is called a
“GreenEarth Cleaning process,” which utilizes a liquid silicone solvent made from sand. The GreenEarth silicone is continually purified and recycled inside the machine, according to Ms. Carroll.
“It is nontoxic, nonhazardous, odorless, and you can see and feel the difference in your garments,” Ms. Carroll said. “The Firbimatic Dry Cleaning Machine is made exclusively for Lapels Dry Cleaning franchise owners, and combines the world’s only nonhazardous cleaning solution with an efficient run time, saving on energy costs.”
That means no chemicals are used in the entire cleaning process, and the GreenEarth machine filtration technologies clean garments using 50 percent less energy, water, and detergent than conventional dry cleaning methods, she said.
That environmentally friendly concept played an important role in moving forward with the business in town.
“When we first had the idea of opening up the business in this location, we worked with the town and got information from other franchises around the U.S. about their power usage, water usage, and we went to the town with that information,” she said. “The way the Lapels franchise operates is using a lot less water than most dry cleaners do. The dry cleaning machine doesn’t use any water.”
Although Ms. Carroll and her brother never imagined owning a dry cleaning franchise, when the opportunity presented itself, they recognized the need on the Island.
“Greg was first approached with the idea of operating a Lapels Dry Cleaning plant on Martha’s Vineyard last September,” she said. “We visited and toured a Lapels Dry Cleaning plant in Hingham at the end of October 2014, and talked with the franchisor and franchisee of that store.”
After receiving positive feedback from the community about opening up another dry cleaning business on the Island, they started the process of getting a floor plan to optimize workflow and renovating the space in February 2015.
Starting a new business is nothing new for the Carrolls. The family has a long Island history, and Greg and Megan were born and raised here.
Greg Carroll is the founder and owner of Bruno’s Rolloff, Inc., a trash and recycling service for the Island. He also took over his father’s ownership in Carroll’s Trucking, a moving and storage business started by his grandfather, William Carroll, in 1930. Greg now operates the family business with his two cousins.
Megan is a mechanical engineer and works at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, where she commutes by ferry from the Island.
Together, the two appear to have the skills necessary to own an environmentally friendly dry cleaning business. Store manager Mark Bergeron assists with daily operations.
Lapels also offers a number of services beyond the scope of dry cleaning, such as alterations and repairs, shoe repair, expert shirt service, leather and suede cleaning, wedding gown preservation, and more. And they envision additional services in the future.
“Once we have a good sense of what the volume and production is going to be on a daily basis, we are then going to go out and start working with hotels and getting them to promote us and let their guests know that there is a dry cleaner here,” Ms. Carroll said. “We’re hoping that by the end of the year we can add in a delivery service, a van for pickup and delivery for both businesses and residents.”
That vision is what Ms. Carroll thinks will keep their business going throughout the year.
“Things have been going very well,” she said. “It’s been very busy. Most people that come in here say, ‘We’re so excited, thank you for doing this. This is what we’ve needed here.’”