Business Review of Classic Vapor Cleaners.
Early in the day I got a chance to check out Classic Vapor Cleaners on Water Street in Santa Cruz. The manager Pamela took me on a tour of the building and told me a bit about how the business was run. I was interested to find out that they pay big money to have their biohazard waste removed and there used to be a helicopter landing pad on the roof! Pamela was very pleasant to speak with, what follows is out interview.
SCW: When did the Vapor Cleaners on Water Street change to Classic Vapor Dry Cleaners?
Pamela: It has been coming up on about two years now.
SCW: Wonderful! How long has Classic Vapor Cleaners been in business?
Pamela: Classic Vapor Dry Cleaners have been in business for 101 years in Santa Cruz County.
SCW: Awesome. What is something that is very important about Classic Vapor Dry Cleaners that most people wouldn’t know about you guys?
Pamela: That on the wet side, we use botanical green products. They are sustainable, renewable. On the dry side, we use green products. The botanical green products we have exclusive rights to. You are not going to get them anywhere close to here. You have to go 50 miles as the crow flies before you can find another cleaners that use them.
SCW: Great! We talked a little about the materials and the cleaning products and how they would be different here then say on the east coast or in the middle of the country. Why is that?
Pamela: Here in Santa Cruz, we have to change the formulas on our cleaning processes not only for the individual and what that individual is in to, but also the climate. When it is hotter, the stains get set more. Foggy, moist, salt air climates, the type of environment that we are in, has more organic pollutants in our smog than they have in New York City. We are constantly adjusting our formulas to account for the seasons, the dirt, and the customer’s preference.
SCW: Okay, great! How many people do you have working here?
SCW: Nice! What type of machinery do you guys use? What would you like people to know about your equipment?
Pamela: [Jokingly] Well, were not next to the San Lorenzo River because were going down there cleaning.
SCW: So you’re not doing your cleaning down by the river?
Pamela: No [giggles] we have boilers, chillers, pressing equipment. We use a lot of steam pressing. The equipment themselves starts at around $50,000 all the way up to half a million dollars for our dry cleaning machines. We have solar on the roof, and we have solar collectors. We also use extractors; they get up to 280 degrees Fahrenheit. We use steam injections too!
SCW: What does it mean to be one of the largest federally contracted businesses here in Santa Cruz?
Pamela: We’re very proud of serving our military and we have been fortunate to maintain the contract with federal contracts, providing service for some of the elite of the elite.
Pamela: Every October, November, and December we collect, clean, and distribute coats in the community, through everyone’s efforts of just looking in their closets for gentle used coats. Warmth is a secondary benefit. Our primary goal is having local children feel comfortable in what they are wearing around their peers. When you are a child and you are not wearing something that really fits you, has stains, or has holes; when you put your coat on and zip it up all that goes away. It is one more chance to pay attention in school, something else that isn’t a distraction. Our community has reached out every year, every foster child, every resource center, and Santa project have all received some pretty cool coats.
SCW: Wow, that is wonderful. That is so good to hear. Is there any particular reason you chose coats for kids? Any reason you chose to get involved with them?
Pamela: When I was growing up I was a Salvation Army baby. I knew what it was like to have a cool coat, to be able to sit at the cool table and have that inclusion; for everything that was going on underneath to go away. It is chilly here in SC, there is a need for a coat, but there are also other reasons to have a coat. We are just fortunate that this community steps up every year. Hopefully this year we can go buy brand new ones!
SCW: That would be wonderful. What would you say is the most important aspect of running a business in Santa Cruz?
Pamela: We try to create a family atmosphere here. There is not a whole bunch of money to go around, we’re a small business. So, we try to create other endeavors that support our employees. Through their contributions towards our community projects they have been recognized and awarded politically, which has helped them and their lifestyle in their families eyes. We try to work our schedule around school so our employees do not have to pay for daycare. We are not the leaders here in SC on the pay scale, as far as what our employees make, but we try to have fun. We’ve almost had water balloon fights in the store.
Pamela: Well, you guys! And this wonderful community to make Coats for Kids, the Prom Dress Drive, and the Hot Rods for kids a reality. It is a real easy thing to do and it stays here local. If my community is healthy, then my employees are healthy, then my family is healthy, and then my business is healthy which makes my community healthy. It’s a life circle. Shout out to you guys at SC Waves, to Santa Cruz, and to all of our customers!
SCW: Awesome! Well thank you for all the shout outs and taking the time to answer all of our questions, we appreciate it.
Pamela: Thank you too.
You can visit the Classic Vapor Dry Cleaners website at: Classic Vapor Cleaners
And their Facebook page at: Classic Vapor Cleaners Facebook
Photos provided by Classic Vapor Cleaners
Article by Jack Neenan