Contents Restoration: From Corner Shop to Cleaning Empire
It’s likely that if you asked Wayne Wudyka where he thought Huntington Cleaners would go when he bought it in 1992, his answer would not have been “global.” From that little corner shop, Wudyka learned the business and grew a contents cleaning empire. You know that empire as Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network, or CRDN.
“We came up with a really good process for restoring garments. We built a process around homeowners who have had a tragic loss,” Wudyka said as he strolled through rows and rows of pressed, cleaned, restored garments. “We treat every garment like a one-piece order.”
Efficiency with an eye for detail is the name of the game, and it’s evident the moment you walk through the door of any of their facilities. Many in the contents cleaning industry preach the importance of organization and documentation, and CRDN is no exception. Every single item gets a barcode, and is tracked through the entire process that starts with a phone call for help.
CRDN sends “first responders” to homes as soon as a homeowner calls for help. Someone from the management level also goes on every call. Photos are taken of every room, and expectations set with the homeowner. From there, an on-site inventory is taken of every item in every room.
“We walk victims through the loss scene. We ask what they need in the next two weeks. Those items are cleaned and returned to them in 24 hours,” Wudyka said. Other items they may not need right away are cleaned and stored by CRDN until the owner is ready to get them back.
When items are brought back to a home, they’re put back in the same spot from which they were taken – curtains hung up, rugs placed neatly, clothes rehung in closets, etc. This is why Wudyka says they are “usually the first ones in, and the last ones in.”
According to Wudyka, 23 percent of the contents in a home can be restored and CRDN has a 98 percent success rate, which can save insurance companies and owners up to 80 percent versus replacement costs. CRDN will even clean the feathers inside your pillows, and re-stuff them for you. During my tour of CRDN, I also saw designer handbags, shoes, taxidermy and a whole lot more being carefully hand-cleaned. Thousands – maybe even millions – of other clothing items were being machine-washed, pressed, sewn, tagged, and on and on.
“There is a lot of chemistry behind the scenes, especially when you have a heavy odor loss,” Wudyka explained about the process. For extreme odor cases, CRDN has several ozone rooms to allow items to air out before starting the actual cleaning process. About 5 percent of the items spend time in the ozone rooms.
The solvent used in the dry cleaning machines isn’t cheap. But, it’s reusable once it’s returned to its crystal-clear state. That solvent is used twice in each load. First, the prewash gets out 90 percent of the dirt. The second wash includes the soap. Then, it’s on to drying, pressing and the steam tunnel.
Back to the little details, if a garment comes in with a unique button or other decoration, the CRDN staff removes the button and places it aside, again carefully tagging it for later. When the garment is fully cleaned, that button is reunited with the item and sewn back on as if it had never left. They also note the condition of items – so if a jacket has a rip, it’s documented so there’s no confusion later.
For the high-ticket items I mentioned earlier, like designer handbags or items from a high-profile customer, CRDN has a vault amidst its tens of thousands of feet of warehouses in the metro Detroit area alone (add in lots more square feet when you start talking about the rest of the U.S, U.K. and Canada!)
CRDN has helped with some major loss scenarios over the years. Just last year, there was a fire at a warehouse that stored resale clothing items for nine stores in low-income areas. Rather than having to start over, CRDN cleaned the clothes and saved the non-profit from what could have been a half million dollar loss.
On July 2, 2007, fire damaged 600 gowns at a wedding dress shop – five days before one of the most popular wedding dates in history, 7/7/07. With about 100 of the gowns also needing alterations, CRDN got to work cleaning, plus brought in seamstresses and had brides getting alterations done on the spot. Dresses were being delivered to brides at the church the day of the wedding – and all was saved.
The Snow White dress above holds another unique story. It was brought to CRDN in late 2013 to be restored. The client’s daughter wore the dress every day for a year back in 1999, and it was the family’s most precious belonging. The dress was restored and returned to the family within 24 hours, to many tears of joy.
For Wudyka and his staff, and most in the restoration industry, customer service is the core of the business. “We are highly skilled in our trade,” Wudyka asserted. “We bring together technical expertise with empathy. We are consistent with that.”
CRDN by the Numbers
2001: CRDN Launched
Year 1: 34 Franchises
Year 2: Added Canada & U.K.
1,200: Average # of claims per month
24,000: Total claims in 2014
94%: Percentage of population served in U.S. & Canada
10 million: Number of garments cleaned in 1 year