Q+A: Zach Kinzer, Bridgestone Cleaners
Bridgestone Cleaners is a family run and operated, eco-friendly dry cleaner offering a wide variety of services to the residents of DUMBO and beyond. We sat down with Zach Kinzer, General Manager and son of Ken Kinzer (who started Bridgestone!) to talk about the family business.
Tell us about yourself and Bridgestone Cleaners!
I've been working at Bridgestone Cleaners for about ten years. My dad started it as a laundromat on Court Street in Cobble Hill in 1983, and he was really successful over there. Since then, the business branched out into tailoring, then dry cleaning, and then wedding gowns— so over the years it just kind of morphed and morphed and grew into what it is today. We’ve been in DUMBO for about 13 or 14 years now.
What brought you to DUMBO?
Our store on Court Street had to be relocated, and a customer of my dad's was a project manager down here. There wasn't much here when my dad moved the store, but he needed to move so he took a leap of faith. To hear him describe it: literally no one was here; the people who were down here were out of the neighborhood at 4 o'clock sharp. It was just a very different kind of feel. But he was patient and always focusing on the little things of the business— the pickup and delivery, focusing on quality— and built a following.
What services do you offer?
It's really interesting because dry cleaning and laundry is so ubiquitous here in the city; there are two on every corner it seems! What we specialize in is what we call garment care, which is anything from hand cleaning to hand ironing sheets, laundering shirts, delicate cashmere, silks, leathers, furs— anything that you may not feel comfortable handling on your own. We also do hand tailoring, and we're really trying to focus on quality garment care and high-end customer service.
We also saw that you offer “green dry cleaning.” Could you tell us what that means?
In dry cleaning, the word "organic" is kind of thrown around, and this is a huge misnomer because even some of the worst chemicals that you could use are technically organic chemicals. There are really no laws around what words people can use. We use a chemical called GreenEarth® solution. It is about as environmentally sound as the market bears, and that's the only thing that we use to clean. More specifically, we use a lot of hand cleaning or wet cleaning techniques, which drastically limits our consumption of chemicals in general. Everything you see when you come into our store that's plastic or a hanger or maybe some paper that we put into a blouse is all 100% recyclable. Every year we try to implement different changes to keep up to date. We're not perfect, but we really take it a lot more seriously than others in the industry right now.
What do you think sets you apart from other dry cleaners?
I would say our attention to detail and the wide range of services we provide— not a lot of dry cleaners are gonna go to the Garment District to match a leather to add to a piece that you like or find that special button or have 100% satisfaction guarantee on a cleaning. If you come in and the stain on your garment didn't come out and you're not happy, you don't pay. So there are marked differences in what we consider to the be the bar.
And what about the wedding gown side of things?
A lot of places don't really do hand cleaning and preservation of wedding gowns— this is a huge aspect of our business, which is really interesting and different. We are the only Association of Wedding Gown Specialists member in Brooklyn. What that means is that if you clean or preserve your wedding gown with us, you have a lifetime guarantee towards oxidized stains, steaming, any of those services. And because you got it cleaned at an association member, which are located all over the world, you have that guarantee anywhere. Restoration of a wedding gown is kind of like an art. If you've ever seen a completely yellowed, 200-year-old gown, things in museums, we do that sort of stuff, and we do it all on-site right here in DUMBO. It's been something that my dad's been doing for a long, long time. He mainly started because not many people want to deal with such delicate, ornate objects. Last week we cleaned a $16,000 gown, and we did it by hand. We replaced all the beads that needed to be around the bottom— it was intense! A lot of it is just hand cleaning and doing general soaks to remove stains, but this isn't something that you just throw in a washing machine, so it takes real skill and training to do it properly. So that's something really interesting that we do. And we get these wedding gowns from all over; we get them from Manhattan, Jersey— people ship them from out of state to us. It's pretty amazing, and interestingly enough a lot of brides come in with their moms' gowns and get them refitted, which you wouldn't think actually happens that much anymore, but we do a lot of that.
You're so involved in the community, which is great. What are some of the organizations you're working with today?
Aside from trying to constantly provide really good and all-encompassing customer service, we reach out to different people and organizations in the neighborhood, and we work with a bunch of non-profits like Coats for Kids, the Women’s Press Collective, and That Suits You. The Women's Press Collective is a company near and dear to my dad's heart. My mom and dad have worked with them for probably 15 years. They have a small account with us, and every month they bring in women who work with them and we provide free garment cleaning for them. The main thing that we really undertook this year was this company That Suits You. They try to get young men who don't have the proper interview attire set up. We do collections of lightly-used suits for them and then do all of the cleaning and pressing. There’s a lot that goes into it. We also donate a lot of clothes. You can imagine that we see a lot of stuff come in and people just don't show up to pick it up, so we're looking at clothes from two years ago, so it's donated to Goodwill. We're always looking out for different things to get involved with locally, but those are the main ones that we've chosen to go with. But mainly I think that where we fit in is just that family-run customer service small business that you see in New York City where a lot of places in the country you don't see it as much. Locally crafted.
What's your favorite place in DUMBO?
Hmm. I would say my favorite place in DUMBO, right now at least, is probably Westville. I eat there pretty regularly. It's quite scrumptious!