Member Spotlight: Maurice Salvoni
Maurice Salvoni started in our industry back in 1961 during his school holidays. Today, he is Managing Director and Owner of Star County Textile Services Ltd managing a turnover of over four and a half million pounds. In this spotlight, he tells us some fascinating stories from his lifetime in laundry.
“I started in a dry-cleaning business at my cousin’s workplace on the North Wales Cheshire Border during the school holidays in 1961, which became full time. My role was a general dogsbody performing odd jobs plus the odd washing experience!
In 1963, my parents started their own dry cleaning business and named it “Star Cleaners”. At the time, I had just left my first job to take up an apprenticeship with a local garage. But, the family business expanded rapidly and my father asked me to come into the business to look after the transport and delivery development. The deliveries were predominantly door to door and agent collections and we had a receiving shop within the small factory which based in Connah’s Quay, near Chester.
The Company expanded rapidly and needed a larger factory so, after many months, the Old School in Rhosrobin on the outskirts of Wrexham was bought and moved into within 7 months. The business continued to expand and I was eager to get leverage from our existing customers however, my father was happy enough with the way the current business was development and not interested.
I craved the opportunity learn more and be part of business expansion and found a position at Claxton Laundry in Farm Lane, Fulham, London in the Laundry & Cleaning News which met my criteria.
I started in January 1979 and remember walking down Wimbledon High Street in about two inches of snow wondering what had I done?! Nevertheless, work went well and Joe Downey, the M. D., appreciated my learning curve and contribution to the Company. The business expanded and a Continuous Batch Washer was installed – this was the first (and not the last!) time I had experience of a blockage, a very daunting experience.
In 1987, I moved from Claxton Laundry to Allied Hotel Services in Hayes Middlesex and worked with the General Manager, Danielle Van Beckum, who was a tough lady but one of the best as you knew where you stood with her. It was part of the Commonwealth Holiday Inns of Canada Group and we serviced Holiday Inns within the group located in Central London, Slough, Bristol, Portsmouth, Cardiff and Swansea. The factory was brand-new, custom built with a lot of teething problems! Over time, these were ironed out and the capacity grew. I gained a lot of experience with the company, especially confidence in my ability to make up budgets and monitor work flows for production.
This confidence gave me the thought that as I have been an integral part of the expansion of these companies, I should look to buy or start a business of my own. Whilst mentioning this to a Publican friend, that was looking to retire on his 50th birthday, he said he’s consider going in together. That Publican is now the Chairman of Star County and says he’s never worked so hard!
For a location, we looked at several areas around Greater London but, when visiting home in North Wales on our way to Ireland, we mentioned our plan to my father who said we can buy Star. So, we started to look at the business, which went up in price each time we discussed the purchase on the realisation about how serious we were!
By this time, early 1990, I had given up my job at Allied Hotel Services and so, spent the week working at Star Cleaners thinking that the sale would be imminent. But it dragged…by the end of April I had to say consider moving back to London if the sale didn’t go through. This prompted things to move a lot quicker. Our Bank Manager came to the factory and offered what the Bank were willing to loan the company but, it was not what my father expected. However, after an ultimatum we reached agreement.
During the time I was working at the factory, I was using my Mother’s caravan for accommodation. Each evening, I would go into the factory boiler room and fill an open-pocket-planet washing machine to the top of the door rim and jump in for my evening bath!
At the time of the purchase, Star’s turnover was £150,000.00 and predominantly dry cleaning. That Summer, it was a long and hot with virtually no work coming through the door. We had plans to promote the laundry section but could really have done with the buoyant dry cleaning business to allow time for gradual nurturing. But, we persevered and gained more laundry customers, slowly getting a loyal customer base and building up the business on our existing vehicle rounds as well as fielding requests from further away with the likes of the RAF Valley on the isles of Anglesey. We built up agents and laundry contracts within the journey distance to the Valley which worked very well.
In 2002 we bought County Laundry Rhudllan and amalgamated the names for austerity by forming StarCounty Textile Services Ltd. This was an excellent purchase although logistically tough with two separate laundries and two site visits a day! In 2003, we installed our first CBW - a 7 stage Ultra Tandem bought from, and installed by, Goudkuil from Apeldoorn Holland, at Rhudllan.
Around this time, we became joining members of the newly formed National Laundry Partnership with Mike Kemp, now the National Laundry Group. This brought together independent laundry businesses to share knowledge and experiences of every aspect of the industry to help new comers into the industry. This turned out to be very informative and Mike Kemp also did some sales for the members bringing in national business.
We had outgrown our current factory so in 2005 we bought a 25,000 sqr ft, two-stage building in Llay, which was paid for by the sale of the Old School. Our first obstacle was the whole of the two buildings had to be re-cladded which was costly but, our second CBW - a 12 stage Ultra Tandem and we started our first production at the beginning of 2006 and, combining the sites in October of the same year.
About a year later (2007) we installed the 7 stage from Rhudllan into Llay. We were growing fast, as was our reputation for the service and quality of our linen, and we found that our competitors couldn’t match StarCounty’s high standards. All this helped our sales and we found customers would rather pay more for our service.
There was a change of CEO at the National Laundry Group when Mike Kemp retired and Alastair McCrae came on board bringing a lot of prosperity to NLG members with his sales background.
And that brings us up to date! We are, this month, replacing the 7 stage CBW with a 9 stage Lavatec and upgrading our drying capacity by 300% (the 12 stage was replaced with an 11 stage Lavatec two years ago which has 55kg capacity per load).
The industry has its ups and downs but once you’re in, you’re in! I wouldn’t change a thing.”
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