October 31, 2011 — Coral Gables — A satchel stuffed with dirty laundry slung over her shoulder, Nikki Abramson had to make a quick run to a local dry cleaners before starting a day’s work on the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus. She didn’t have far to go—only a two-minute walk from her office in Building 21 to the Whitten University Center, where a drop-off location for a Miami-based dry cleaning business now operates.
“The prices are good, and it’s convenient,” said Abramson, a case manager and assistant to the dean in UM’s Dean of Students Office.
It was Abramson’s first visit to Liberty Cleaners and Laundry’s new UM satellite store, located on the first floor of the University Center next to the credit union. “But if the service is good, I’ll definitely be back,” she said.
Liberty Cleaners owner Danielle Koping is confident that she will. Since the store’s mid-September opening, about 200 customers—mostly students and employees—have walked through the door, dropping off their suits, slacks, shirts, and skirts to be dry cleaned or washed. Garments are pressed and cleaned at the business’s operations plant in Liberty City.
Now, Koping wants to expand her UM customer base. “There are still a few people who don’t know we’ve opened,” she says. So she is advertising in The Miami Hurricane and will hold a grand-opening celebration at the store on November 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. at which customers can drop off a garment to be dry cleaned and enter to win a flat-screen TV and free dry cleaning voucher.
Koping’s relationship with UM began three years ago when she put in a bid for and was awarded a contract to clean the uniforms for the Miller School of Medicine’s security force. Since then, the relationship has flourished—before the end of the year, she will open a drop-off site at the new R+D Building One in the UM Life Science & Technology Park.
Owning a dry cleaning business has been Koping’s lifelong dream. Her mother, Marlene, managed two dry cleaning establishments in New York during the 1980s, and on Saturdays Koping and her sister would go into the stores to help out, working the cash register and writing claim tickets for the clothes customers brought in.
“That’s how I learned the business,” she says. “If we got out of school early, we’d go into the store and watch the press machines being operated.”
When the owner decided to sell the business, Koping’s mother wanted to buy it but was unable to, and her family’s longtime association with the dry cleaning industry was over—but only temporarily. Koping would eventually move to Miami in 2003 and buy a dry cleaning store that was up for sale in Liberty City, fulfilling not only her dream but also her mother’s.
She relishes her role as an entrepreneur and wants the University Center drop-off location to succeed. “The economy may still be slow,” she says, “but people still need to look good.”
Liberty Cleaners and Laundry University is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 305-284-9385.
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