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Prepared for the September 5, 2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper.
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Life in the Fast Lane: Restoring Teddy Bears
Restoring teddy bears and other cherished belonging
that have been damaged by fire — it may not be an extremely
business, but as a dry cleaner’s specialty, it works for Arthur Weiss.
Weiss, the president of Betty Brite Cleaners, has renovated and
a 20,500 square-foot plant at Windsor Industrial Park that is being
billed as the largest in North America specializing in disaster
services. His grand opening celebration will be Tuesday, September
19. A plant tour will begin at 10 a.m., and at 11:30 a.m. a press
conference will announce a national Coats for Kids program. Ribbon
cutting will be at noon.
Weiss is the third generation in the drycleaning and tailoring
his grandfather had a tailor shop in the Bronx, and in 1950 his father
opened a drycleaning establishment in Queens but moved it to Twin
Rivers in 1971. A month later, when he was just 17 years old and a
freshman at Lehman College, Arthur Weiss’ father died, and he had
to leave college and take over the business. His mother, Laura,
working in the business until her hip operation at age 75.
Weiss opened a shop in Mercerville in 1978, sold the original location
in 1990, and started a VIP express service for homes and offices.
The current plant is a rental at Windsor Industrial Park in the former
Mack Lumber building. The business has grown 25 percent a year for
the past three years and employs 25 people. Among its charity projects
are collecting "Coats for Kids," for Trenton’s LIFT (Looking
Into the Future Together), and canned goods and adult clothing for
The new "environmentally friendly" equipment can recirculate
process water, recover solvents using advanced aircleaning system,
and use waste steam recovery for generating hot water. Advanced
technology uses solutions with 60 percent water and only 40 percent
In an overcrowded field, Weiss looked for a specialty, and now he
is a textile restoration expert — cleaning textiles that had been
exposed to smoke, soot, fire, or water damage. Items that would
be doomed to landfills are returned to complete their intended use,
says Lori Hullfish, customer relations manager. "In addition,
we accomplish the challenging task of bringing peoples’ lives back
to normal after a catastrophe."
More than 80 percent of the company’s work is reclamation business,
obtained by recommendations from insurance companies and cleaning
contractors. "I consider the business more than a job. I spent
a lot of time developing my skills and I enjoy doing it," says
the 46-year-old Weiss. He is founder and president
of the International Association of Restoration Drycleaners, and has
certifications from several other trade groups.
Many dry cleaners say they do restoration, but —
in a 75-mile radius — Weiss has identified only six that really
do specialize in it. "That means a lot of others are saying they
can do it," says Weiss.
Requirements for succeeding in the restoration business include being
fair to the insurance company and working well with contractors who
are doing the cleaning in the burned out home. Most important, says
Weiss, is to have a good bedside manner, to make the client feel at
ease that their possessions will turn out OK. "We do see people
going through an emotional roller coaster. It is a new experience,
and it is traumatic. If it is a very bad disaster, it doesn’t get
corrected over night but takes months. We see people going through
all the different phases."
When his plant deodorizes items and treats the soot and smoke, the
cost, surprisingly, is usually only 40 to 50 percent more than regular
cleaning. "That covers our going to the home, packing the clothes,
inventorying for the insurance with our quote, separating the items
by the rooms they came from, storage, and bringing them back."
Even that price may seem expensive compared to replacing clothes,
he admits, but insurance reimburses victims only for the
value, the condition that the clothes were in, and they pay very
for used clothing. "Plus, it takes people a long time to
a wardrobe to suit their tastes," he says.
"I take special attention to stuffed animals because I collect
them," says Weiss. He and his insurance-agent wife, Amy-Lisa,
happened to buy cute pillows with teddy bear faces about five years
ago, and now they have a collection of more than 100 stuffed bears.
His specialty within the specialty is the "businessperson
and his current favorite carries a monogrammed briefcase and has a
cell phone that beeps.
One particular set of animal treasures was in such bad shape he told
the customer it could not be restored. "They wanted them cleaned
regardless. One of my people spent an awful lot of time on them —
and they look almost like new," says Weiss. Stuffed animal
generally costs $10 to $20, a well-worth-it price, as parents know.
"You wouldn’t want to tell a child he has to throw his teddy bear
— Barbara Fox
Industrial Park, Building 15F, Windsor 08561. Arthur Weiss, president.
609-426-4600; fax, 609-426-4604. E-mail: Bbritecln@aol.com
100, Princeton 08540. Micky Landis, vice president and regional
609-452-1444; fax, 609-452-1453.
Mark E. Hockenjos is now a regional property manager for the Princeton
portfolio. A graduate of Fordham and formerly associated with Trammell
Crow in Pennsylvania, Hockenjos will be in charge of tenant relations,
operating budgets, and supervision of property managers.
Home page: www.informix.com.
This regional office of a Denver-based software company has had its
name changed to Informix Software, moved to Edison, and is available
at 732-744-1771; fax 732-744-1773.
Park, Princeton 08540. Tim Boyle, president. 609-252-1155; fax,
to 500 Australian Avenue, Suite 730, West Palm Beach,
FL 33401; 561-835-8511. It sells and markets soft goods such as
hats, and sweat clothes. One employee, the accountant, will stay here
and work from her home.
The website of the various entities of Nelson
was printed incorrectly on August 30. For Nelson Professional Sales,
NCI Consulting, NCI Managed Care, Lyceum Medical Education, and Pharma
Communications Inc., www.nelsoncommunications.com is the correct
For an article published August 30, Elaine Verna is the president
of IsSound, and Mark Hakkinen is chief technology officer of IsSound,
and the fax number of 609-637-0177. Ray Ingram, co-founder of the
company, no longer works at the firm.
education teacher and coach at Princeton Regional Schools. A memorial
service is Sunday, September 17, at 3 p.m. at Princeton Racquet Club,
director of social work at Princeton Nursing Home.
Building & Painting in Princeton.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.