Gill Korb can still remember the horse and buggy days when he was a young boy helping his father in the laundry business. Pearl Laundry & Cleaners has been owned and operated by family since it was started by Gill’s grandfather, Daniel Korb, in 1896. The business first began in Evansville, Indiana as The Rust and Korb Laundry Company; now it is in the fifth generation of the family. Gill Korb still works at the plant each day; he represents the third generation of family. Bernie Michel (Mr. Korb’s son-in-law) and Andrew Michel (Mr. Korb’s grandson) represent the fourth and fifth generations. 8 Universal-UniLink Purchasing Association Pe a r l la u n D r y & Cl e a n e r s Pearl Laundry & Cleaners has embraced many changes through the years, “from horse and buggy to modern delivery trucks, steam power to electricity, hand statements to computer billing, cash to credit cards.” A Story of Family History & Dedication to Business There are many changes that have occurred in the business through the years, from operating practices to machinery. Mr. Korb recalls some of the significant differences. According to Mr. Korb, all the employees were paid in gold when the business began in 1896. He can “remember his grandfather going to the bank with a suitcase and returning with gold to pay the employees.” He also recalls using a horse and buggy to deliver laundry; this delivery method was very slow, so deliveries were limited to the Downtown area. In the 1930’s Mr. Korb’s father purchased a Model-T Truck, and business increased because they were able to expand their delivery area. In the 1940’s many supplies were rationed from the war. He explained that tires for delivery trucks were one of the most difficult items to purchase. Mr. Korb states, “I had a soap salesman that lived in Chicago, who would bring used tires for us to use on our delivery trucks.” Even though changes have occurred during each decade, Pearl Laundry still utilizes some of the same equipment today. They still operate their utility presses from 1945. Many of the modern technological advances have increased the speed and capacity of the business; the introduction of flatwork ironers, automated machines, and washer extractors has significantly allowed the business to grow. Pearl Laundry & Cleaners has remained competitive in the market throughout the years because they provide such diverse offerings. Currently, they offer dry cleaning, commercial laundry, residential laundry, embroidery, and screen printing services. This wide variety of services has enabled them to remain successful throughout the years. Mr. Michel explained that it is difficult to predict how the economy will affect each segment of the business. He states, “It is rare to have all areas of the business low at the same time, so you can transfer help to other areas of the business.” This diversification is demonstrated by Pearl Laundry’s uniform rental business that was operated from 1983-1993. Instead of discarding this segment of the business, they used their knowledge to open an embroidery service. This allowed them to expand their business to a wider customer base and eventually open a screen printing business. Mr. Korb realizes that his forefathers had to work hard to keep the business thriving, which has led to the company’s great work ethic today. Mr. Michel and Mr. Korb explain they “can always count on family and you can always trust them.” Their family has remained successful because they have the knowledge of every aspect in the business and they have a strong work ethic. Mr. Michel states, “You have to do anything and everything to survive in business. If someone is absent, then you have to be able to fill in for them that day.” The first three locations of Pearl Laundry & Cleaners are shown. In 1912 the business moved to the current location in Evansville, Indiana.
Mr. Michel has many considerations in the daily operations of his business, but the largest factor he must consider is payroll costs. Pearl Laundry & Cleaners employees 64 people; the majority are part-time. Each employee is treated with respect. According to Mr. Michel, “We do not rule the roost. We work with our employees to show them how to do everything.” Everyone helps each other to make certain the job is done correctly, so each day is different for everyone. The washplant and ironers from the 1960’s are pictured. There have been many changes to Pearl Laundry & Cleaners through the years, but the ironers are still in the same location today. Mr. Korb states, “We all give and take, just like a big family.” This positive, friendly atmosphere has enabled Pearl Laundry & Cleaners to employ great people and remain successful. After receiving a recommendation from a salesman, Pearl Laundry & Cleaners joined Universal-UniLink Purchasing Association about three years ago. Mr. Michel explains, “The discounts I received from Gurtler were enough justification to join.” Since joining the group, Mr. Michel has discovered that he uses many of the other Preferred Suppliers as well. Recently, Mr. Michel signed into the Universal-UniLink website (www.universal-unilink.com) to review the updated list of Preferred Suppliers and found many that he did not realize were available. He has already contacted other Suppliers, so he can start receiving additional discounts. He realizes the “right companies and suppliers” are worth joining Universal-UniLink Purchasing Association each year. The main plant for Pearl Laundry & Cleaners moved into their current building in 1912; the building, which spans an entire block, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Pearl Laundry has grown and now operates six stores; they also offer delivery services to the entire city, as well as many of the outlying areas. Pearl Laundry & Cleaners and the Korb family have embraced many changes through the years. Mr. Michel describes, “From horse and buggy to modern delivery trucks, steam power to electricity, hand statements to computer billing, cash to credit cards.” Throughout all the many changes, Pearl Cleaners has remained a successful, hardworking family-owned business. A Pearl Laundry & Cleaners step van from the 1960’s. Gill Korb, his father, and David Korb are pictured with the ironers in the 1960’s. Do you have an interesting story? Let us know! We would like to feature your business! For details, email: firstname.lastname@example.org July2011 9