CEO Conversations: Jim Massey, Jim Massey’s Cleaners and Laundry

In 1941, Jim Massey Sr. started his namesake Montgomery dry-cleaning business with a single employee, his wife. His son took what had grown into a four-store operation and expanded it to more than 40 locations in Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

The founder’s grandson, Jim Massey, began in the family business at age 10, separating coat hangers. In 2010, he took over as CEO, a position he holds today.

Massey is proud he’s able to continue his grandfather’s legacy while also steering the company in new directions, and he stresses there’s no secret to his business’ success and his satisfaction with it, only planning and hard work. (And fewer polyester leisure suits.)

What are the main responsibilities of your role?

As a small business owner, my most important responsibility is working with our management team to ensure they have the tools they need to maintain good relationships with all our team members and customers. My other primary responsibilities include marketing, store leases, managing our real estate investments and communicating with our accountants, bankers and various governmental agencies. 

What’s the No. 1 challenge your business faced last year, and how did you and your team deal with it?

Without question: Dealing with the labor shortage. This remains a challenge. We’ve taken several steps to combat it, including raising the starting pay of all positions, as well as increasing our overall pay scale with current employees to retain our best team members.

In addition, we are offering more flexible scheduling by adapting store hours and days open for store customer service representatives. For those with production positions, we are operating in sync with schedules that are close to school schedules. 

What’s trending in the dry-cleaning industry right now?

Nationwide, the number of pieces dry cleaned annually has decreased by a third since 2020. During the darkest days of COVID, many dry cleaners across the country saw their revenue drop as much as 75 percent. Many decided to sell or simply close their doors.

After COVID began to subside, many people who had become accustomed to working at home continued to do so. This led to fewer people dressing in professional attire. Furthermore, some companies moved to modified work schedules and relaxed dress codes for employees coming into the office. It all equals fewer pieces to dry clean.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?

One is when you see someone join the company at an entry level position and within a few years, they have worked themselves into a management position that they never thought possible. The other is when you see a project designed to serve your customers better come to fruition, like the Jim Massey’s app, which allows our customers to request various services with the touch of a button.

If you had to sum up the secret behind Jim Massey\’s success in one word, what would it be?

Flexibility. Back in the 1960s and ‘70s when polyester was the fashion rave, it almost put us and a lot of other dry cleaners out of business. But we diversified into uniform rental and tuxedo rental with great success. This is very similar to what we are doing today. As a result of the decreased demand for dry-cleaning services, we have opened two laundromats, with a third on the way. 

We also now offer full-service area rug cleaning with pickup and delivery service and have installed 24-hour drop boxes in every store, allowing customers to drop off at their convenience.  In addition, we have two Locker Zones where customers can drop off and pick up their clothes 24 hours a day, and we also offer “Save-A-Trip,” a free pick-up and delivery service. This flexibility has increased customer satisfaction and been successful for us. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

The fact my brother and I are running the same company our grandfather founded. When John and I took the reins of the company, we decided to bring it back to its roots in the River Region so we could grow the company locally by focusing on taking care of our employees and our customers. We also wanted to grow our disaster and restoration franchise, CRDN of Central Alabama, one of the most successful in the country. 

What is your No. 1 piece of business advice for someone just starting out?

Understand that being the boss usually means being the first one in and the last one to leave work. Take advantage of your time starting out and learn the duties of every position within your company. Also, take time to get involved with the community, either through the Chamber of Commerce or other local organizations.

Personal Matters

What makes you proud to live in Central Alabama?

I am proud to call Central Alabama home because of the teamwork seen every day, with everyone working toward the goal of making the area an even better place to live. I am glad to live in a place where you see people from diversified demographic backgrounds working shoulder-to-shoulder to continue the growth of the region we all call home. An added bonus is close proximity to Lake Martin and Alabama’s beautiful beaches.

What’s your favorite quote?

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – General Colin Powell

What would you be doing if you were not in your current role?

I really do not know. I grew up hearing my father and grandfather talking about the dry-cleaning business, and I have always wanted to follow in their footsteps. 

What\’s the one food you couldn\’t live without?

My favorite snack is Chex Mix.

What are your hobbies?

Anything associated with Lake Martin. Whether it’s going for a boat ride or working on a project in the yard, everything about the lake is relaxing to me. 

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