COMMERCE, Calif. — The year was 1952.
Near the University of Southern California (USC), Albert Antman decided to launch a small retail laundry business—the keyword being “small.”
The site in which he began operations offered less than 2,500 square feet—only enough space for pressing and ironing of garments.
It didn’t even have its own laundering facilities.
Despite the size limitations, Kleen Kraft Services was born. Since that time, the company has moved into commercial laundering with uniform rental services and has grown into a thriving operation.
Through it all, the company has remained family owned and operated, and this year Kleen Kraft is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
“Our 70th anniversary is a celebration of my grandfather’s enterprise, my father’s vision and our family’s commitment to serving our customers with reliable, accountable uniform rental services,” shares owner Fred Antman, and third generation of the family involved with Kleen Kraft.
Albert operated Kleen for four years until 1956 when his son, Seymour, joined the company after graduating from USC, shares Marilyn McCarty, marketing manager.
Seymour moved the business into a larger building and invested in new laundry equipment. In the late 1960s, the company made a move from retail laundry to commercial laundering with linen and uniform rental service. Further growth took place after Fred, Seymour’s son, joined the business in 1975.
Fred took over the leadership of the company in 1993 and has overseen a steady expansion of the business year after year.
Kleen Kraft acquired Supreme Laundry in 1978 and Pride Uniform Rental in 2004. With the purchase of Pride Uniform, key personnel joined the business. Boris Zaidman came on board to serve as vice president and general manager. Bob Halstead currently serves as director of sales and service.
“One thing that makes Kleen Kraft special is our many long-term employees,” McCarty says. “There are several members of staff at the plant and offices that have worked for Kleen Kraft for 40 years, and most of our route service reps have worked here for five, 10 and 25 years.”
In 2020, Kleen Kraft achieved Hygienically Clean Certification in Food Safety from TRSA, the association for linen, uniform, and facility services, and is the only uniform rental company in Southern California to be certified by the state as a Small Business Enterprise (SBE).
“We are proud to be the only uniform rental company in California to be SBE certified,” shares McCarty.
Kleen Kraft Services covers the territory in Southern California designated as Greater Los Angeles, which includes L.A. County, Orange County, and portions of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
“We provide uniform rental services, along with towels, mats, facility supplies, and related products to food processors, industrial manufacturers, automobile dealerships, machine shops, and many other service industries where rental garments help improve safety, cleanliness, or create a more professional image for staff and field workers,” McCarty says.
She says that food processors are particularly concerned with cleanliness and sanitation and besides being certified by TRSA as Hygienically Clean for Food Safety, Kleen also offers a full HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) Program to support food processors in protecting the food supply.
“For auto dealerships and service workers who call on businesses, homeowners or retail clients, a professional image wear program is important to establish confidence and promote brand awareness,” McCarty points out. “When we provide services to machine shops, industrial manufacturers and logistic firms, the safety of workers often comes into play.
“We work with HR or quality control directors to determine the right uniforms specified for ease of movement, flame protection, enhanced visibility and other features to help workers stay safe on the job.”
Kleen Kraft runs out of two facilities: a plant in downtown Los Angeles and an office with a warehouse in Commerce. The company runs a single shift five days a week at the production plant, in the corporate office and for all route drivers, processing about 100,000 pounds of laundry per week.
“Our tag line is ‘The Accountable Uniform Company®,’ so we stand behind the quality of uniforms and the cleanliness of our garments after laundering,” McCarty says.
Kleen Kraft has an in-line repair system that allows the company to keep users’ garments together, eliminating shortages and missing or damaged garments.
“When our business started there were over 100 locally-owned uniform rental companies in the area,” Fred says. “Now we are the sole independent firm.”
For the customer, working with a family-run business is more direct, has less red tape and is a friendlier experience than dealing with a large, remote corporation, says McCarty.
“When we talk to prospective customers, we hear a variety of complaints about other providers, from product shortages to incomplete or missing deliveries, damaged and dirty garments, or rising prices and unexplained fees,” she says.
“However, the most frustrating complaint we hear about other uniform rental companies is that customers will sometimes go days, or even weeks, waiting for a response to their questions or complaints. A real person answers the phones in our office!
“We are proud of our ‘60-Minute Culture,’ which means we respond to questions or concerns quickly—usually on the spot. Some requests require a bit more investigation, so we guarantee to get back to customers or prospects with answers within one hour or less.”
McCarty says the company anticipates sustained growth within its territory as it consistently improves its processes and continues to compete with national and non-local providers.
During the past two years, most businesses have had challenges working through the pandemic, but she says Kleen Kraft has been fortunate to have a diverse client base, most of which were designated as essential businesses.
“With the increasing awareness of the need for cleanliness, uniform rental and commercial laundering moved forward in the consideration of many operations managers and human resource professionals, and the need for professionally cleaned garments, sanitized towels, and cleaning supplies became a necessity,” says McCarty.
Kleen Kraft is building on this awareness along with working into its fourth generation of family ownership and management. Fred’s son, Rick Antman, has been the director of operations for many years.
“As we kick off our 70th year in business, I’m thrilled to have my son onboard to continue the family business for years to come,” Fred says.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].