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History of Gadue’s Dry Cleaning

Gadue’s Dry Cleaning did not start in the back of a garage at someone’s home, but it wasn’t very much different from that at the very beginning.  Bob and Betty Gadue bought a failing dry cleaning company in 1975.  It was a One Hour Martinizing franchise, located at the Ethan Allen Shopping Center on North Avenue, in Burlington, Vermont.  And thus it began.


The business was tiny by any standard.  Total revenues that first full year totaled a mere $60,000.  It was from this revenue that every company bill was paid, every loan, every dime in salary.  At the beginning, there were only two full time employees: Bob Gadue, acting as owner, office manager and counter sales person, and the dry cleaner-spotter-presser guy.  Bob knew people and was a terrific sales person for his company, and Charlie knew how to dry clean and press.  In that first year, the work for the day was done by 9:00 AM.  There just wasn’t much of it.


The business responded to the work Bob and Betty began to put into it, and sales grew along with staff as the months stretched to years.  Then tragedy struck.  Two years into owning the business, in the prime of his life, at the age of 45, with five children ranging from ages 6 to 19 at home, Bob was diagnosed with kidney cancer.  He was forced into retirement.  Betty took over the management and operation of the company, and with the help of family and friends, survived the next two years as an absentee owner.  Bob died in March of 1979, and the clients who knew him cried along with his family and a huge number of friends over his passing.


Bob and Betty’s oldest son, Mark, graduated from St. Michael’s College in May of that same year.  Mark was engaged to Marjorie Biafore of Meriden, Connecticut, and their plan was to attend graduate school in pursuit of academic careers and college professorships.  During that summer of 1979, Mark and Marjorie struggled with the impossible demand of two people in the same field looking for scarce PhD slots within commuting distance from each other.  While they searched, they both worked odd jobs as they patiently explored the best academic opportunity for them both.  Then fate intervened once again.


Mark’s sister Laurie was only nine on August 28, 1979.  Betty had planned a backyard birthday party for her youngest child, but the business interfered.  The afternoon customer service person called out sick.  There was no choice: Betty had to abandon the party and go to work at the dry cleaners.  Mark, seeing the difficult spot his mother was in, offered to go to work in her place.  The birthday party was a success, and it launched Mark on a career in fabric care that has thus far spanned more than thirty years.


Mark discovered on that hot summer day in 1979 a business in need of attention and care.  Betty had buried her husband of twenty-five years and kept her family intact, but the business showed signs of the strain.  Mark Gadue, recently graduated History major, dug into the business for the first time in his life. 


A small renovation was immediately planned to increase productivity at North Avenue about 100%, and new opportunities for sales growth were sought.  Within a few months, Mark and Marjorie committed completely to this economic opportunity, never imagining it would last so long.  They paid Betty $75,000 for a business grossing that amount exactly.


As the new owners of Gadue’s One Hour Martinizing, Mark and Marjorie bought their first building in February of 1980 in Winooski, six months before their wedding day.  They paid $45,000 for a building that had sold the previous year for $7,000.  Betty financed the deal and assured them that it wasn’t how much you paid that mattered; it was how much you made.  Their grand opening special was 50% off any order, and the work flooded into their now thriving business.  Within a couple of years, Marjorie had given birth to their daughter Aline, and the business had grown to sales of $300,000.


In 1985, Mark and Marjorie made their next acquisition, a shirt laundry in the Old North End of Burlington.  The integration of this new company into their existing company doubled the size of their business, but proved more challenging than either of them had imagined.  Mark went from working 20 hours a week to working 15 hours a day.  The equipment in the acquired business was old, asbestos was discovered, the staff was ill trained and hostile and the customers were leaving in droves.  Success in America comes either in a bolt of lightning or along a slow torturous path.  1985 marked the beginning of that path for Mark and Marjorie.


In 1990, Gadue’s Dry Cleaning underwent its first thorough modernization.  Plant layout was done anew, modern machines were purchased with borrowed money, and the company expanded by two more locations to a total of five.  Mark arrived every day at 5:30 AM and stayed until the work was done, which in the spring was often after 7:00 or 8:00 PM.  He took his two children with him on Sundays to pick up the clothes at his various locations that had been collected on the weekend to be processed the following week.  He and the children sorted the clothes and prepared the plant to go to full operation first thing Monday morning.  It was during these early times that Aline Gadue began her involvement with the company.  And thus it continued.


By 2001, it was clear that the original North Avenue location was no longer adequate to handle the company’s production needs.  In addition, while the dry cleaning was being done at North Avenue, the shirts and laundry were still being done in the Old North End location.  Having two production facilities was inefficient and eventually unsupportable.  A new, even more modern facility was sought.


In 2002, Gadue’s Dry Cleaning moved its headquarters to its current location at Creek Farm in Colchester.  At a cost of more than half a million dollars, a new 8,000 SF production facility was planned and built, one that could rival some of the most progressive dry cleaning companies in the nation.  Production was computerized with auto assembly and bar codes.  The new cleaning and pressing lab was gigantic compared to what had come before, and for the first time in company history, wet and dry cleaning were combined under one roof.  Productivity soared.


By this time, Aline had graduated from college and had moved back home to start a temporary career at Gadue’s.  With her help, Mark and Marjorie expanded operations once again by acquiring a rival dry cleaning company in the Burlington area, which added four more locations.  Aline had begun her after-college career at Gadue’s as the office manager and quickly moved to the manager of customer relations, and then vice president.  Mark and his daughter Aline were managing the company together, as they are to this present time, and Aline has transitioned from making Gadue’s a temporary career to making Gadue’s Dry Cleaning a lifetime effort with her as the sole owner some day.  She is now President of the company, hoping to send her Dad down the road to retirement as soon as possible.


Prospects for the company appear bright.  Market share is up and the Gadue’s Dry Cleaning brand grows stronger with each passing day.  The company is well known not only for outstanding customer service and retail dry cleaning, it is also highly accomplished at fire restoration work.  Another diversification of the company is being added presently as well—Medical Linen Supply.


What started as a small, Mom and Pop business with sales well below $100,000 in one location has blossomed into a company with eight locations, more than 50 employees, and a fleet of trucks to serve our clients’ needs.  We have been blessed to be able to work hard and succeed.  And thus it continues into the third generation of Gadues…