By Marjorie Rice
When Donn Frye took his anniversary store decoration ideas to the city of Scottsdale, the buttons made it, but the giant zipper didn’t fly.
Frye’s chain of eight Scottsdale Prestige Cleaners stores is celebrating 50 years in the Valley—the first Prestige Cleaners opened in 1964—and he wanted to decorate the buildings to mark the occasion as well as the journey into the next era.
“About 18 months ago, we began working with the city on our anniversary designs featuring some new looks,” Frye says. “We came up with some out-of-sight designs, including ‘buttons’ on pillars outside the stores to make them resemble shirt cuffs, and a big zipper on our Airpark store. They took one look at that zipper and threw up their hands.”
Although Scottsdale’s strict signage regulations presented creative challenges, the city was willing to work with Frye and his vision. “It took five or six passes with changing designs, and in the end we were happy and they were happy, so I think it was a fair compromise,” he says.
The buttons were transformed to artwork—featuring desert-scapes, boots and other Western themes—stitched into the center, button-style. But the zipper was history.
Frye’s work with the city may have benefited from his family’s long history of activism, community support and business connections in Scottsdale.
Don Frye, Donn’s father, opened his first store after moving to Arizona from the Midwest, where he had worked in the cleaning business. The elder Frye was a fixture in the Scottsdale business scene until his death in 2012 at the age of 95. Donn has followed his father’s example.
“Dad believed in taking an active role in the business community and in community service,” Frye says. “He joined the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce before he even opened his first store. He also was active in Kiwanis and on city boards. Dad said you have to give back in order to know people. It’s part of being in business.”
Today Prestige continues Don Frye’s commitment. Donn Frye is a member of Scottsdale Charros and the boards of directors of the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce and the Boys and Girls Club.
The company grew and changed as Scottsdale and the Valley changed, but along with community service, one thing remained constant—its focus on customers’ needs.
“Dad knew the business and understood what customer service was all about,” Frye says. “The name of the game is convenience and value for the dollar, and he knew customers wanted to save time, so he offered a new drive-through service. In fact, we think we were the first cleaners to offer drive-through services in our area.”
The stores originally also offered home and office delivery. “We did that in the ’60s and stopped, then started it up again about three years ago because so many customers asked for it,” says Frye.
The company’s focus sharpened over the years. “In the 1980s, we had stores in Tempe, Mesa and throughout the Valley,” Frye says. “We decided to concentrate on our main market—Scottsdale—which has developed ‘mini-markets’ along its north-south corridor.”
Personality & Culture
Prestige has remained a family business. Frye’s two daughters have worked in the stores during summer breaks. “My eldest daughter just graduated from college, and she wants to talk to me about working here, so there may be a third generation managing the business,” Frye says.
The company has 60 employees, most of them full-time and many with upwards of 30 years with the company.
“We have turnover in the customer-service area, but the back of our store has many long-time employees,” Frye says. For many years, the company has offered benefits including health insurance. “We also have coolers to try to make the conditions as comfortable as possible, as it can get pretty hot with all the machinery in the summer. And we always have Popsicles and Gatorade handy,” he adds.
Prestige also prides itself on providing advancement opportunities for employees. “Most of our managers started as something else,” says Frye. For example, 32 years ago, Denise Testori joined the company as an accountant, and today she is the company president.
Through the years, the Frye family worked to maintain the company as a family-owned business where each store has its own personality and culture.
“It’s been a challenge to maintain that culture,” Frye says. “The game has changed. If my daughters come in, there may be more differences. But one thing remains the same when it comes to the people and the practices in our stores. The cream still comes to the top.”
One change his stores have seen is in the products used in cleaning clothes.
“In about 1996, 100 percent of the industry was using the same dry cleaning product,” Frye says. “A new product came out that was better for the environment. ‘Green’ wasn’t big then, but we started it in one store and eventually transitioned to using it in all our stores. We’ve used it for 15 years now. It’s better for the clothes, the environment and for our workers. In a few years, something better may come along, and we’ll be open to that.”
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