For more than 100 years, the Callander family has been in the business of keeping Columbus looking good.
The family launched Callandar Cleaners, a laundry and dry-cleaning business, in 1906.
“My grandfather started the business in the spring of 1906, with his first store at 219 E. Town St., until sometime in the 1920s, when he opened a story in German Village,” owner Ron Callander said. “My dad moved the company in about 1945 to 314 E. Main St., then around 1955 he bought the property just east of Bexley, and we’ve been here ever since.”
Like his father before him, Callander and his brother, Don Jr., started out at a very young age working in the business.
“My brother and I started coming down to the plant at around maybe ten years old,” Callander said. “We started out sweeping the floor, then we started driving the trucks, and eventually we moved into working the plant. My brother ran the sales side of our company, and I managed things.”
Callander Cleaners currently employs about 50 people at its six locations, according to Callander.
In the 1980s, Callander Cleaners had 16 storefronts.
Quality and customer service are important to Callander, he said, and keeping the business the right size is important to maintaining those values.
“Dry-cleaning is a hands on business and we found that being bigger is not necessarily better,” Callander said. “When we came out here to Bexley in 1955, my brother and I started to expand the business, but we found that 16 stores got to be a real chore. When he died I downsized a bit further so that the business was a more manageable thing for me to do.”
Callander’s daughter Lynn, now the company vice-president, worked with company prior to his brother’s death, at which point Callander promoted her to manager.
“Lynn has been with me now since before the time of my brother’s death, and when he died my first thought was that I just couldn’t do these things myself, so I trained her to manage counter staff,” Callander said. “About five years ago, I promoted her to vice-president, and she’s still in that position and will be the next owner of the company.”
Callander said he won’t be retiring any time soon, though.
“Everybody has a different idea about retirement, if you look at work as work it becomes something don’t want to do but I enjoy what I do,” Callander said. “I’ve made a good living for myself and my family so I want to give back to the industry, show my competitors what we do here.”
Callander said his company has always tried to stay with the latest technology in the industry and he spends much of his time now traveling the country to talk with other dry-cleaners about their innovations, making plants more efficient and environmentally friendly.
So what is the secret to maintaining a small family owned business for over 100 years? According to Callander, it is about innovation, quality work and respecting the customer.
“There’s no big secret to that, if you only focus on money you’re going to lose sight of customer service, but with customer service everything else will come,” Callander said. “We’re very appreciative of the customer loyalty we have, we’ve got a few third-generation customers. After being in business for over 100 years you know it’s a nice feeling to know people have trusted us that long.”