Based in Clio, Jan’s Professional Dry Cleaners has served Greater Flint and Genesee County since 1982. In October, Jan Barlow was a finalist in the 2018 Global Best Practices Awards, presented by CINET (Comite’ International de L’Entretien du Textile). Jan’s Cleaners is one of just 25 retail textile cleaning companies from around the world that was selected from 350 nominations to attend the ceremony in Milan, Italy. The awards honor the most innovative and sustainable retail textile cleaners with an emphasis on new business models, services and overall best practices.
Barlow is a Certified Garment Care Professional and is one of only a few dozen people in the world to have earned three certifications from the International Fabricare Institute. Jan’s Professional Dry Cleaners has been a pioneer in the dry cleaning business and was the first in the U.S. to use Sensene Modified Alcohol, a safer and environmentally friendly dry cleaning solvent, in a Columbia-Ilsa Dry Cleaning Machine. Jan’s is also a repeat winner of the My City Magazine “City’s Choice Award.” Among many others, Barlow’s distinctions include:
- Woman Owned Business of the Year 2003 – Flint Area Chamber of Commerce
- International Athena Award Recipient, 2006
- Past President, Clio Area Educational Foundation 1992-2010
- Past President, Clio Chamber of Commerce 1998-2010
- Past President, Dry Cleaning & Laundering Institute 2012-2013
- Past Chair, Innovative Thinking Conference – Flint Area Chamber of Commerce
- Member, City of Clio Planning Commission
Serving 15 Mid-Michigan counties, Jan’s specializes in cleaning and repair of blinds, draperies, bedspreads and comforters, and has a sister business, Jan’s Custom Window Fashions.
MCM: Are you originally from Greater Flint? If so, what part?
JB: I grew up on the east side of Flint, before it was Burton, and graduated from Atherton High School.
MCM: Did you go to college? Where and what did you study?
JB: I started college at UM-Flint, then went to Michigan State University, graduating with a B.A. in English Education with a minor in Library Science. I thought I was going to be a librarian.
MCM: What aspects of your career are the most exciting?
JB: The most exciting part of the business is how the needs of our customers are constantly changing. There is never a dull moment! The fabrics that are being developed are always evolving – every season, we see interesting fabrics and clothing designs. This also applies to our home décor. So, even though you may not be dressing in as many garments that need professional care, your home is dressed with beautiful fabrics and designs that need care.
MCM: What career achievement are you most proud of?
JB: I am not sure I have had that pinnacle, “most proud of my career” achievement. I still love what I do and love meeting people and keeping the relationships I have. The most significant project I have led was the rewrite of the National Fire Protection Association dry cleaning code for the entire industry (NFPA 32), which was completed in November 2015.
MCM: On what career goal/projects are you most focused right now?
JB: My current project is reintroducing Mid-Michigan to Jan’s Professional Cleaners – to spread the word that we are not just a dry cleaner, we offer many more services. The technology inside and outside the business is always changing. Early in my career, I decided to have only one location and focus on offering free pickup and delivery of dry cleaning at your office or home. As a former school teacher who always had a hard time getting to the cleaners, one of the first services I offered was delivery. I developed a route, then hired a driver and the rest is history. We are attending to customer needs, as well as engaging with the community to keep a presence in people’s minds.
MCM: How did growing up in Greater Flint shape who you are today?
JB: The best thing about growing up in Flint was learning our Midwestern work ethic and values that are known throughout the U.S.
MCM: Are there any special people who influenced you?
JB: My family has had the most influence on me, and they are still the most important influence on my life. I have great staff, business associates and friends who are like family and are there for me, as well.
MCM: What do you hope to achieve in the future?
JB: I hope, as we start the next 40 years of this business, that the model we implement will be sustainable for the next generation.
MCM: What do you hope for the future of Flint?
JB: I hope that Flint continues to increase their diversity and demographics. As Metro Detroit continues to prosper, Flint should be the next place to grow and prosper. The people of Flint have worked incredibly hard, planting the seeds to make this economy grow. I know it will happen – it’s just hard to be patient for the demographic to come of age.
MCM: What do you like to do in your spare time?
JB: I spend time with friends and family, travel and read. I have a long “Bucket List” of places to go, things to see and books to read. There’s a little bit of artsy creativeness in there, as well. Mostly, I like to share experiences with the people I love.