“That’s me playing baseball as a White Star baseball player,” said Rob. “My parents started the business in 1960. I got into the business because I grew up in it and saw the advantages it would offer for family life.” Sixty years later, he and his wife of 28 years, Lois, have nurtured their business into a nationally award-winning company.
The Award of Excellence is the premier recognition program for professional members of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute. To achieve the award, White Star Dry Cleaners must prove it meets rigorous, objective standards in cleaning and service. Most importantly, the company must clean and return a specialized Cleaning Performance Evaluation to prove their cleaning quality is among the best. In addition, the company must successfully remove six common, but difficult, stains on a silk swatch and return it for evaluation.
Four times - that’s how many times White Star has entered and won. “The stain swatch is very difficult; they do tell you what the stains are and that helps. The contest has helped us become a better dry cleaner,” Rob said.
The Whitmires purchased White Star from Rob’s his parents, Joann and Ralph, in 2015. Rob is proud to tout the modifications and modernization White Star has undertaken. “We have gone to heat seal barcode production system to streamline production and auto bagging machine to speed up production. We have added 24-hour drop off at most locations, added 24-hour pickup at the Signal Mountain store, purchased new delivery vans and added free home and office pickup and delivery,” Rob said.
Rob and Lois raised their family on Signal, very close the Sequatchie County line. “We have three children, Hogan, Marie and Brooke. They all graduated from Signal Mountain High School, starting in 2011.The experience we have had at Signal Mountain High School was surreal. It was like living our old Red Bank High School days - I graduated in 1987. An incredible community-supported high school, success in academics, State Champion level sports programs,” Rob said.
Hogan graduated from Samford University and is now finishing up his third year of dental school. Marie also graduated from Samford and is working in marketing. Brooke, the youngest, is finishing up her third year at Samford and hopes to pursue a career in physical therapy or as a physician’s assistant.
Rob is grateful this business has afforded him and his family a wonderful quality of life. “It is a great family business, not requiring me to travel or sell a product, which I would not be good at, but instead provide a much-needed service where quality and service sells itself. I am much more of a worker and prefer the production side of things, while my wife Lois does an awesome job in the office and takes a lot of pressure off me there,” Rob said.
In these uncertain times, Rob and Lois have worked hard to keep the company running.
“COVID-19 has really changed our business. We have gone to drive-thru-only service at all locations and ask customers to take advantage of our 24-hour drop boxes. We are asking customers for credit card only transactions and not to sign receipts. We have segregated incoming orders completely from any area that has cleaned processed orders,” Rob said, adding that employees’ temperatures are checked before they are allowed to work and dirty garments are kept in quarantine until they can be processed by trained personnel in protective gear.
by Michelle Michaud