By The Clothes Doctor

A “Win-Win” Situation

A “Win-Win” Situation

The 2014 Baseball season is well underway, and “Cardinal Nation” is listening to Mike Shannon in his 42nd season on the Cardinal Radio Network.

It seems like yesterday (1964) when I watched my first world series game at Sportsman Park. That day Mike Shannon hit a game tying 2 run homer off Whitey Ford as the Redbirds went on to beat the New York Yankees in 7 games, and win the 1964 World Series.

Many years later a devastating fire at the Shannon Home Damaged his collection of autographed jerseys- jerseys from Wayne Gretzke, Mike Schmidt, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, and many, many more. We were able to restore about 80% of the collection. I later discovered Mr. Shannon was donating many of the jerseys to be sold at a charity auction. This act of giving made the restoration job feel much more rewarding. The fire loss, through disastrous did not deter Mr. Shannon from giving back to the St. Louis Community. Mike is a “class act” and a great representative of the St. Louis Cardinals, exhibiting a “win-win” attitude, regardless of circumstances.

As of May 1, 2014:

Our Lake Forest and Decorator Fold Cleaning and Restoration divisions are all under the same name – Marquard’s. This adds to single name recognition and will enhance branding, strength, and ease of advertising.

The St. Louis Business Journal recently published an article that tells our story and a little about my work. This is a republication of that article.

SUBSCRIBER CONTENT: May 2, 2014, 5:00am CDT by Margaret Crane The “clothes doctor” sobriquet, given to him by a customer who couldn’t remember his name when she needed “to talk to that, you know who, that clothes doctor,” has stuck. Today, Rimell is a local TV celeb who dispenses his cleaning and clothing care prescriptions as an expert who has worked most of his life in the 83-year-old, third-generation family firm, known for its high quality. 


By age 12, Rimell was taught the tricks of the trade — how to remove a spot, for instance — from his father, Harvey. He also learned by listening as his mother, Lila, who was a tailor, and father, talked shop. But he never wanted to go into the family firm when he saw how work consumed his parents’ lives. He dreamed instead of becoming a dentist.  The graduate of McCluer High School was a star baseball center fielder and hitter who was asked to sign with the Twins’ farm team, but opted to go to college where he earned a B.S. degree in chemistry and zoology. He bagged the idea of dental school and went to work for General Motors in Detroit. Miserable there, he left after a year and came back home “with my tail between my legs,” he said, to enter the family firm.

“Ken is the go-to person in the city to clean, restore and remove odors from stained and damaged fine garments and textiles,” said Bob Smith, president of ServiceMaster St. Louis, a restoration company. Smith related a story about a white Saber-toothed tiger rug that was damaged. “Another contractor said he couldn’t restore it. Ken did, much to the customer’s delight. “He’s extremely likeable, easy to talk to and makes each customer feel like his job is the most important.”
Putting his chemistry credentials to work, Rimell carved out his niche in the family firm — fire and flood restoration of textiles, which was a gold mine in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. Marquard’s was the only game in town. Over the years, the business has changed and grown in new ways with Rimell moving into a more public role. Ken lives in St. Peters with his wife, Martha.

 Questions and Answers:

Did your father start the business?

No. My father owned Rimell’s Cleaners in the city. He and John Marquard, who started his business in 1931, were friendly competitors. John developed the criteria for quality in this business as he looked at each piece personally that came across the counter. My father, who worked for John for one year, bought him out completely in the 60s.

What did your father pass down to you about the business?

He taught me the technology of spotting. He would say, “If you break the string of the technology I’m showing you in spotting, no one else will know these techniques. It isn’t common knowledge and you must pass this on to the next generation.” Spotting, I learned, is tedious and requires years of experience about when to spot, how much steam to use, how long to use it, how to avoid pulling color from the garment by using the correct concentration of chemicals. It’s really more of an art than a science.

What makes Marquard’s unique?

The way we remove spots has never changed. We have a methodical way of finding the spots by putting the garment across a board and then working on removal. How we do so gets into a long and boring discussion of the chemistry of the business.

Describe your niche.

At one point I was strictly involved in restoration and drapery cleaning which meant using all the techniques I knew. We were doing 20 or 25 fire restorations a week with offsite stores and storage lockers to house the garments. Doing this was wet, dirty, hot and with late hours. But as others began to see our success and the dollars we were generating, they began to create national franchisees to get this business. We are local and refused to compromise on quality. If we had, we would have had a lot more work but then we would have had to join a national franchise and send money back to the mother ship. It just wasn’t a fit for our kind of a family business.

When you and your brother took over, how did you change it?

I was doing the restoration and drapery cleaning. Steve was the numbers guy and also manned the counter at our two stores. At the time, Marquard’s had two cleaners and the one plant in Olivette. My father’s idea was to let us earn what we could and grow as much as we could. During the ‘80s, at least 70 percent of our revenue was in restoration. However, that was waning in the ‘90s, and we needed to generate more revenue through the cleaning. In 2004, we bought out two Lake Forest Cleaners. As of May 1, all stores are now called Marquard’s Cleaning and Restoration.

What are you mostly doing today to generate revenue?

In addition to the five operations, we are now in the Oriental rug cleaning business. Ours is done by immersion with paddles. Today, restoration is about 10 percent of the business, Oriental rug cleaning 10 percent, and the rest is in dry cleaning of all textiles.

Do people bring everything to be cleaned to Marquard’s?

Yes. Some have become so attached to Marquard’s. It’s like Starbuck’s; and they’ll bring in clothing they shouldn’t because it’s too expensive to be cleaned by us, but they like the experience. I call it the mystique of being greeted by someone who is pleasant and can get you to someone who can answer your question. Most unusual requests? In fire restoration we’ve had everything from African war drums to one guy who had a hobby as a road kill taxidermist who asked us to clean his collection. I’ve restored all of Ed Macauley’s jerseys (former St. Louis Hawks basketball player). Mike Shannon had a fire which destroyed many of his original jerseys; we restored a good percentage of those.

Worst day in the business?

It was Dec. 19, 2000. The 10,000-square-foot plant burned to the ground. We never ascertained the cause, but it wasn’t from chemicals. My father walked through the rubble and said, “OK boys, this is what we’re going to do.” And he took over. “I’m going to XYZ cleaners, and Ken you’re going to rent a space so we can replicate this for storage, put up racks, whatever you need, get the computers down there, get the trucks, and do whatever it takes.” In two weeks, we were doing the work using other people’s stores, doing whatever it took for one and a half years until the first brick of the new plant was laid.

How have you and your brother divided up the company?

When we took over, Steve was named president and majority owner with 55 percent of the business, and I was named vice president with a 45 percent stake. Today our revenue is up slightly.

You’re now semi-retired. What do you do to relax?

I play golf and decompress at Cabo, Riviera Maya, Cancun, Naples to get my winter tan. I’m a beach person. I love to play racquetball and golf. My wife and I like to walk.
Where you can find Ken Rimell?

Monday: At one of the Marquard’s locations from 9 a.m. to 3 or 6 p.m.

Tuesday: Making mall calls to stores that carry upscale clothing

Wednesday: Visiting restoration companies like ServiceMaster

Thursday: Meeting with a consultant at 10 a.m., occasionally on the golf course

Friday: Spending time shopping and lunching with his wife
A spot or a spill? If it’s solid like pudding, lift it off with the back of a spoon. Whether a liquid or a solid, take a napkin and dab, dab, dab to keep it from spreading. Do not use club soda or water because it can form a ring or make the spot larger if the sizing gets wet. If velvet or wool, don’t rub because you can create a soft spot. Get the garment to a cleaning pro within 24-36 hours before a spot oxidizes.

To read the original article on the SBJ website, click here.

A “Win-Win” Situation