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Gallagher Uniform—130 Years and Counting … and Growing

President answers questions about how Southwest Michigan company survives, thrives

CHICAGO — The year 1893 was one for the history books.

In Chicago, the World Columbian Exposition (the World’s Fair) took place May 1-Oct. 30. 

In Springfield, Massachusetts, the first American-made gas-powered vehicle was driven on public roads on Sept. 20 by Charles and Frank Duryea.

And in Michigan, John C. Gallagher started what would become Gallagher Uniform, which still operates in Battle Creek.

American Laundry News had the chance to ask John C.’s great-grandson, John, the current president of the company, about its longevity, its operation and its future.

How did the company get started? What spurred its founding and early growth?  

Great-grandfather John C. Gallagher began recycling and washing rags and towels for use in the Downtown Detroit machine shops.  

He saw a need that needed to be filled. 

What types of markets does the company service?

We service southern lower Michigan and Northern Indiana markets. We service food and pharmaceutical manufacturing, agribusiness, industrial manufacturers like tier one and two automotive, and dealerships. 

What does the operation look like today in terms of employees, equipment, pounds processed, etc.? 

We deliver and work five days per week with a first shift, a modified first shift and a third shift. We have 90 associates (employees).  

Our plant, stockroom, maintenance and loading docks are in a 45,000-square-foot area. Our office is contained in a 3,500-square-foot area.  

We use five 450-pound washer-extractors and a 250-pound washer-extractor with three dryers.

Do you have any certifications? How do you ensure timeliness and quality?  

We are proud to be the only Michigan laundry to be TRSA Hygienically Clean certified and Clean Green Certified.  

Timeliness and quality and continuous improvement are part of our fundamental values we live every day. 

Production planning, teamwork, culture and a relentless pursuit to advance and be the best ensure our values are achieved.

What makes your company unique in the laundry/linen services industry?  

The fact that we were founded in 1893 puts us right up near the top of the longevity list.  

Brothers made up the fourth generation who worked together for 35-plus years. The fifth generation is represented by two brothers from the oldest son of the fourth generation.  

Beyond longevity and family, our G-Trak bar code and UHF chip technology lead the industry. Our G-Trak Mobile app that each customer garment wearer can use was the first in the industry.  

Wearers can look up garment deliveries, message for questions, make a size change, repair or replacement requests all from a smartphone.

What challenges has the company faced in recent years, and how have you overcome them?  

Employee shortages before, during and after COVID have clearly been a challenge. We increased our culture-building activities to ensure our associates felt good about their work environment and feel safe and appreciated.  

During COVID, we remained an essential company to remain open for food and pharma and other customers. We never missed a delivery during that period. We had outstanding teamwork and effort.  

Growth has also produced its usual challenges in overtime and cash flow. Aging equipment was also a recent challenge, which was overcome with all-new washers, a revamped soil sort system, mat rolling, and packing and folding area floorplan redesign.  

Our next move is to replace our uniform sort system and our stockroom floorplan. 

Lastly, three of the four brothers have retired over the past five to 10 years. Good succession planning made it a good transition.

What have been some of the company’s greatest successes? How were those achieved?  

We specialize in very large customers. They are wonderful to have and painful to lose.  

While we have lost some to national contracts, they have all returned to Gallagher over time.  

Our G-Trak technology, data management and certified bundles of garments via UHF chip technology have been great successes that large and complicated customers need to have.

What’s in the future for the company?  

The future is steady, profitable growth with a team of amazing associates at every level of the organization.  

We are proud to be returning to the Detroit area market where we were founded. The Detroit plant was sold in 1975, and Ron Gallagher and his four sons focused on growing the Battle Creek plant.  

It worked, and now we are coming home again to Detroit. Perhaps a plant there will be in our future to handle the growth opportunity.

Anything else you’d like to add about Gallagher Uniform?  

We had a fantastic growth year in 2023 that resulted in record growth and annual sales. This was primarily driven by the Pfizer company (pharmaceutical) which returned to Gallagher Uniform. 

We were proud to drastically improve the uniform program for their employees who were heroically developing and producing the Paxlovid treatment for COVID-19.


Secrets to Laundry/Linen Services Longevity (Part 1), Dec. 15, 2022

Secrets to Laundry/Linen Services Longevity (Part 2), Dec. 22, 2022

Secrets to Laundry/Linen Services Longevity (Part 3), Dec. 27, 2022

Secrets to Laundry/Linen Services Longevity (Conclusion), Dec. 29, 2022

Gallagher Uniform—130 Years and Counting … and Growing

Members of the family involved in the company include Kevin Gallagher (left), plant manager: John Gallagher, president; and Chris Gallagher, vice president of customer service. (Photo: Gallagher Uniform)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].