Andrew Briller’s Andrew Howard Dry Cleaners & Tailors was recently honored by the Jericho Jewish Center (JJC) for his helping out with the religious organization’s annual coat drive, which benefits the less needy being served by the Mary Brennan INN in Hempstead. This humanitarian gesture is a small part of what’s made Briller’s business an integral part of the local community for the past 23 years. While he has cleaned upwards of 600 coats in the five-year period that he’s been working with the JJC, the New York City native’s work with coat drives dates back to when he was at his prior location on Jericho Turnpike and he started out working with Jericho’s Robert Seaman Elementary School. It’s a small deed that Briller loves participating in that he feels goes a long way.
“The idea of seeing someone go cold and being able to give them something to keep them warm is not unlike when someone is hungry and you give them a meal. I think that’s the idea—once somebody realizes that doing something simple like collecting coats and getting somebody to clean them can make someone else happy—it’s a win-win. It’s very rewarding for us here at the cleaners, because I know that if I spend a couple of hours in the back of my store, I can keep a bunch of people warm and I can give them something clean,” he said. “These are not worn out rags. People don’t replace the coats because they’re worn. They replace the coats because they want a new style. Or just because it’s a new season. The coats we clean after we clean them, are top-notch coats. Aside from someone getting something to keep them warm, anybody getting one of these coats is getting something nice.”
When it comes to top-of-the-line, the same can be said of Briller’s 3,200-square foot cleaning establishment that currently employs 15 people. Having bought the building and moved in back in November, he and his wife Wendy are proud of their space. It’s bright and clean with a flat-screen television in the background that runs an ad on a constant loop as calming music by the likes of The Beatles and other acts subtly plays in the background. The notion of giving his patrons a top-flight dry cleaning experience extends beyond the physical aesthetics of his shop and encompasses a loyal and long-standing crew for which exemplary customer service is a priority and nothing but the best cleaning ingredients are used.
“If you’re a cheap business, whether it’s food or dry cleaning, you can’t serve fresh food or use good solvents and you wind up losing the customer anyway. Then you get into a vicious cycle where this treadmill goes faster and faster and you’re not gaining on anything and you become bitter. Now when the customer comes in, you’re already behind in your bills, the equipment is breaking down because you’re overloading it, packing it and killing it. Nobody is happy. You can’t treat your employees right and you walk in and sense things are bad,” he explained. “So we go in the entirely opposite direction. We just do it right. If you come in and we tore your jacket, we’re happy to fix it and if we can’t fix it, we’ll replace it. It’s built into our cost of doing business, so we just do it right. We’re very conscientious of our online reviews. We have five stars on Yelp, Google and Facebook, because there’s nothing we won’t do to keep our customers happy. Ask my wife. We talk about it all the time—what can we do to be a better cleaners?”
Having grown up in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn, Briller got bit by the bug when he started working part-time, after-school, five-days-a-week at a local dry cleaners. While trying to figure out what to do with his post-high school life, his hours were increasing at his job and the owner offered to show him the ropes. By the time he was in his mid-20s, Briller had broken away and parlayed his expertise into a pick-up and drop-off cleaning situation, which found him becoming a wholesale client for another local dry cleaner.
Coming in with a client base and not requiring a salary made him a very attractive employee. A lack of say over quality control saw him take it all up a notch and offer to become a highly experienced manager while still bringing in a big chunk of business. All these lessons served him well when he hung up his own shingle. More importantly, with his experience and success in doing pick-up and drop-off dry cleaning, he has a corner of the market that few of his competitors are eager to explore. It’s lucrative enough to make up 70 percent of his current business. Combining an insatiable drive, a fear of failure and a pride to only do the best by his customers enabled Briller and his wife to buy their current building and charter their own destiny. It’s all a well-deserved point of pride for him.
“When I started out 23 years ago, I was leaving the house at 5:40 in the morning to have the store open until 7 and I was working until 7. Then I was getting home at 8 and delivering for two hours. I was young. I was so afraid of failing, because I had nothing to fall back on. There was no option. If it had to get done, it got done. There were no excuses—I did what I had to do and I was proud of where I was going,” Fast forward—we bought our own building and we started with eight pick-up and delivery customers when I bought my business in Syosset 23 years ago and now I think we’re at over 300. So that’s our story.”
Visit www.andrewhowarddrycleaners.com to find out more about this Syosset-based business.