By Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PORT ORANGE - Kai Desai doesn't get dirty much at his job -- he's in the business of cleaning clothes.
Mr. Desai, with his wife Sonal, co-own and co-manage Corner Cleaners, a professional dry cleaning and laundry service business that specializes in cleaning treatments for delicate clothing items, bedding and draperies.
The Desais have owned Corner Cleaners since 1999, when they took over the business from a former owner. They operate two locations, one in Port Orange and one in Daytona Beach that employees refer to as "the plant" because it's where all the dry cleaning equipment is.
Mr. Desai said he does what he can to offer high quality dry cleaning services at low prices.
"Our reputation is cleaning," Mr. Desai said. "We clean really good."
He recently found a way to cut costs lower -- moving to a different part of Port Orange. Last fall, Corner Cleaners relocated from Westport Square on Taylor Road and Williamson Boulevard to Pines Plaza, across the street from Walmart on Clyde Morris Boulevard, to cut his rent costs.
The less his overhead is, the lower he can charge customers for cleaning garments. Keeping costs low is important in order to survive in the dry cleaning business, he said, because he has to compete with big box chains, such as Walmart and Target, where it's possible for customers to buy brand new clothes for slightly more than the cost of a dry cleaning.
"You can go to Walmart and get a polo (shirt) for $12," Mr. Desai said. "Why would you pay $5 for a dry cleaning?"
Dry cleaning, however, is necessary to preserve the quality of delicate clothes, such as wool suits that cannot withstand the rough and tumble of a washer and dryer. The dry cleaning process works to keep the clothes clean without shrinking or damaging the fabric, Mr. Desai said.
He said dry cleaning differs from using a washer and dryer at home in the use of chemical solvents such as perchloroethylene (perc for short) to remove stains and odors from clothes instead of soap and water.
"If you wash at home, it only removes a small scale" of stains and odors in the garment, he said. His business also helps to serve people whose busy schedules may not permit the time for them to wash clothes on their own.
Besides the standard dry cleaning services, Corner Cleaners also offers alterations and minor clothing repair services, as well as a special preservation treatment for wedding dresses. After the dress is dry cleaned, Mr. Desai said, the dress is covered in tissue paper and placed in a sealed box He sometimes uses a desiccant such as silica gel as a means of preserving the dress for a longer period of time.
Corner Cleaners also offers free pickup and delivery of garments to customers who live far away from the business's physical locations, such as in Ponce Inlet, as long as the customer places a minimum order of $50. Mr. Desai said he's able to offer pickup and delivery services between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., even when his shops close.
What draws customers to Corner Cleaners, he said, is the low pricing. He pointed out a current promotion offering dry cleaning services at $3.99 for blouses, pants, jackets and shirts and $7.99 for suits and dresses.
"You go somewhere else and (then) you'll come back to me. Why? Pricing," Mr. Desai said. "... We don't nickel and dime here. We don't want to turn down people. Not on pricing, (and) not on service."
Corner Cleaners is at 5000 Clyde Morris Boulevard, Unit 3, Port Orange; and 1377 Beville Road, Daytona Beach. For more information, call the Port Orange location at (386) 788-7010 or the Daytona Beach location at (386) 788-1019, or visit www.cornercleanersfl.com.