There are certain badges of honor you wear in the dry cleaning business.
Like the time Keith Klabunde took a challenge from Milwaukee Magazine, which tasked all metro-area dry cleaners to launder a single cloth napkin.
"They put everything on it. I mean everything: ketchup, mustard, ink. And I was able to remove everything but the ink. There was just so much. Not every stain can come out," said Klabunde, owner of Keith's Cleaners, 7027 W. North Ave.
"I was the only one who could get the napkin that was never going to get clean almost completely clean."
Experience has a little something to do with his expertise.
"After 25 years, you get pretty good at removing stains," Klabunde said.
But his real point of pride comes from the customers.
"I love the people," he said. "Clothing is really personal, and people get really attached to their clothes. And when you're talking to somebody about their clothing, you become very close to them."
Those people were a big part of the reason that, after 25 years as manager of the Martinizing franchise that used to occupy his shop, Klabunde decided to buy the family-owned business and make his own mark on dry cleaning.
Over the decades, he's grown from a former restaurant manager with no dry cleaning experience into a master dry cleaner, who carefully guards his craft.
"Nobody does any of the cleaning but me, because I'm that concerned about the quality of the work," said Klabunde, who isn't shy about telling customers about his back-to-back years scoring 100 percent on the Martinizing franchise test.
The franchise days are over; Klabunde gave up brand affiliation to save about $15,000 in franchise fees when he took over the business in January.
But the business name is really the only thing that's changed for Klabunde.
If you would like to suggest a Business Spotlight, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
JUST THE FACTS
BUSINESS: Keith's Cleaners
ADDRESS: 7027 W. North Ave.
PHONE: (414) 774-2050
OWNER: Keith Klabunde
INCORPORATED: before 1971
TYPE OF BUSINESS: dry cleaner
- Business Spotlight: Cranky Al's has grown from desperation to a Wauwatosa institution
- Business Spotlight: Duckpin bowling alley has been an exercise in creative thinking
- Wauwatosa Business Spotlight: The Flower Lady stays true to the Village, and finds room to grow
- Wauwatosa Business Spotlight: Perspective Design specializes in being a generalist
- Business Spotlight: Tosa Bowl and Bun
- Business Spotlight: For Loriena Harrington, the land kept calling her back
- Colonel Hart's is a bar that will make you feel like family
- Wauwatosa Business Spotlight: At Legacy Gym, it's not just about abs
- Business Spotlight: The Wauwatosa Historical Society keeps up to date with the past
- Wauwatosa Business Spotlight: Chiropractor found his way by a fortunate accident
- Business Spotlight: On a quest for good brews, they found a World of Beer
- Business Spotlight: Jenny Kyle Smith hits the sweet spot after years of struggle
- Wauwatosa Business Spotlight: Kirchen's Car Sick Art is more art than cars
- Business Spotlight: Wauwatosa-based Irish Fest Center does more than put on a summer festival
- Business Spotlight: Sheeley Service puts the zip in your beverage of choice
- Business Spotlight: Face time is the best time for photographer Stephanie Bartz
- Dog trainer finds it's people who need aid
- Business Spotlight: Russ Drover finds beauty in the original
- Wauwatosa Business Spotlight: When he left the corporate world, he made new arrangements
- Business Spotlight: For Ruckus & Glee toy store in Wauwatosa, it's all about play