By Bridgette M. Redman
Prestige Cleaners has been committed to doing the right thing by its customers, employees and community since 1964. It wasn’t about to let a thing like the pandemic change that.
President and CEO Denise Testori says she’ll never forget when the news of the pandemic and the lockdowns hit.
“It was St. Patty’s Day and there were a lot of rumors swirling around of what was going on,” Testori says.
“I called my team — meaning all my plant managers — and we came in for an emergency meeting. It was so awesome. With a click of your fingers, they adjusted the schedule. I had outlined what was happening and how we needed to pull together and devise a system to be able to survive through this. In other words, take care of our customers, take care of our employees and maintain financial health for the company.”
A 36-year Prestige Cleaners employee, Testori assumed the title of president and CEO in 2019, just before the pandemic hit. The business has seven plants, and when volume dropped overnight, it consolidated into three plants, keeping equipment running and servicing customers.
It made very few changes in company policy and procedures, having already had drive-thrus, after-hour drop-offs, free delivery and pickup, and contactless payment through either its app or website.
“We were already using disinfectant and masks and gloves,” Testori says. “The only thing we had to add was the shield at the counter for walk-ins. Everything else was in place.”
Taking care of employees
Prestige managed to get through the pandemic without layoffs, sometimes creating work such as painting the plants and doing chores that staff previously didn’t have time for.
“I was really proud of our team,” Testori says. “I said, you know we’re not getting as many pieces, but we want to keep everyone employed — everyone has to be open to wear different hats. We did a lot of renovating and just updating the physical environment.”
Prestige made accommodations for employees whose lives were thrown into disarray, especially those who suddenly had children at home when schools closed.
It committed to communicating what was happening to everyone in the company, using English and Spanish. It made sure things were in writing so employees could share it with their families to allay any anxiety about job loss.
Prestige Cleaners produced a newsletter that allowed staff to share the positives and negatives of the lockdowns, giving employees an opportunity to get to know each other better.
As plants combined, employees worked alongside co-workers they had only met at company outings and events.
“It was kind of neat to see the camaraderie between the different employees and teams,” Testori says. “It just really worked out.”
Taking care of the community
On Prestige Cleaners’ website, it extols its legacy of service, citizenship and community. It is something it carried on throughout the pandemic. It continued its partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale, held clothing drives, and gave complimentary cleanings to those in need.
It also worked with Banner hospitals and the many individuals and organizations who were making homemade masks at the beginning of the pandemic. Prestige Cleaners became a collection site and cleaned thousands of newly made masks that were headed to hospitals.
“We worked with Banner hospitals and cleaned many, many pounds of homemade masks,” Testori says. “That was the biggest thing we did — cleaning free masks so that any of their affiliates, visitors or emergency room patients could be provided these clean, homemade masks donated by the community. That was all done complimentary.”
Customers demonstrated loyalty
Just as Prestige Cleaners took care of its communities, the community, in turn, took care of it. Testori said many customers with whom the company had long-term relationships took care of staff, sometimes offering gift cards.
“I just really want to thank our customers, our community, for supporting us through this,” Testori says. “They worked with our changes. My gratitude really goes out to the public for supporting our industry. I look back, and I reflect on this: It’s really been a horrid thing and sad to see so many businesses that had to close. It was a struggle. I won’t deny it. The rules were changing weekly. I am so grateful to those who supported us.”
Founder Don E. Frye opened Prestige’s doors in June 1964 in the Valley of the Sun. Offering dry-cleaning and laundry services, tailoring and alterations, and wedding dress preservation, the company has grown to six Scottsdale locations plus a corporate office.
When Don retired in 1981, he handed over the reins to his son Donn Frye, who carried on his father’s commitment to community service and strong corporate citizenship while forging his own path. Now, Testori is guiding Prestige Cleaners as it continues to expand and serve its customers.
“From the customers’ perspective, we have the same core values as we did when Mr. Frye, the late founder, had,” she says. “I want to have those but be able to embrace change and allow for us to be in the forefront of serving others, whether it’s our employees, community or customers.”
Testori has been dedicated to working with regulatory and legislative agencies on issues pertaining to the industry, helped lead Prestige’s efforts to grow and expand pickup and delivery services, was instrumental in developing an innovative Prestige app, and helped lead the company to be one of the first dry cleaners in Arizona to embrace green practices.
The Frye family’s work ethic resonates with Testori.
“Family-owned business or not, they’ve always provided a professional culture not unlike what you would get in a big, public organization,” she says. “It allowed for that real personal attention, whether it’s with the employees, the customers or the community.” ν