From the June 2000 issue of Entrepreneur

The phrases "ground-floor opportunity," "golden opportunity" and "hot franchise" are probably some of the most abused buzzwords coined to entice you to invest in a particular business. Let's face it, some franchise opportunities are hotter than others...and some are just plain hot. Operating a dry-cleaning plant in July, with steam presses and other large equipment, is indisputably a "hot" franchise opportunity-but is it the one for you?

The people at One Hour Martinizing certainly think so. This franchised system is the largest of its kind, with more than 600 stores in 15 countries. Martinizing pioneered on-premises dry cleaning when, in 1949, Henry Martin recognized that a newly developed chemical would allow dry cleaning to be done in retail centers. (Previously, due to the highly flammable chemicals the process used, dry cleaning was done only in industrial areas.)

This change in service helped make Martinizing a leading national brand in the cleaning business. However, I found some apparently outdated marketing literature published by the company stating that there were 700 stores in 17 countries, so the chain seems to be getting smaller.

In the meantime, dry cleaners are popping up on every street corner and new entrants are now offering such services as delivery to businesses. Furthermore, every dry cleaner seems to employ a similar marketing strategy-they advertise a low price for laundered shirts in order to create store traffic for higher margin, dry-clean-only items.

As a franchisee, you can expect to work six days per week and know that each day will be filled with problem solving and customer service. Even with new equipment, breakdowns are commonplace due to the demands on the hardware. People are counting on you to have their clothes done on-time, so you have to be on your toes. You shouldn't venture into a Martinizing franchise if you expect to be an absentee owner, although the franchisor might disagree.

One of the joys of this type of business, according to longtime franchisee Cheryl Norman of Atlanta, is receiving a nice sense of satisfaction at day's end, when you've completed a cycle of production and can walk out of the plant and not drag your problems home with you. When I asked Cheryl to describe the most important quality a Martinizing franchisee should possess, her answer was simple: "stamina."

The franchisor projects that opening and owning a typical store, ranging in size from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet, can cost between $190,000 and $290,000. This estimate doesn't include laundry equipment for shirts, which could add $25,000 to $75,000 to the cost. If your store is new to the system, the initial franchise fee is $30,000; if you're adding a second store, the fee is only $10,000. If you're converting a store from another brand, it'll cost $15,000. A development agreement is also available for multiple stores.

Martinizing has a proven name and a refined operational system-but when you're looking at this business, ask yourself one crucial question: Does your neighborhood really need another dry cleaner? If the answer is yes, you may be joining the hundreds of others who've found happiness with Martinizing.


Todd D. Maddocks is a franchise attorney and business consultant who is presently the CEO of The Worldlink Group LLC. He may be reached at TMaddocks@jdworldlink.net.