The ongoing pursuit of excellence is how a family-owned laundry in Calabria became an industrial business that serves an entire territory and resupplies hotels and restaurants with table and bed linens by the best Made in Italy textile manufacturers. Guarantees that allow the company to stand out in a complex market as an icon for hygiene, top quality and service. It is a company with eminent recommendations in terms of opposing disposable products, laundry operations and cleaning in general.
“I’ll share a new anecdote. If during the negotiation phase I bring to the potential client laundry from our stock, already used and washed but as white and bright as the brand new linens of a competing company, this makes the type of laundering our company guarantees much easier to grasp. Consequently the price also takes on a whole new meaning, which relates to the quality and durability of the textile product to be supplied…. In fact, the customer in question chose us”.
This is the word, or rather “words” of a 21st century gentleman by the name of Franco Ferraro. Clearly, if anyone were looking to make a commercial for the region of Calabria, to inspire trust and optimism towards Italy as a country still worthy of being called “Belpaese”, the past and current history of the Ferraro laundry would serve as perfect example. It is the story of a family inextricably tied to the history of this gorgeous land and entrepreneurial at the same time, whose profound and constantly updated know-how propels it towards the future in a market subject to radical innovations and transformations.
Everything started in the mid ’70, when an Italian family emigrated from the Swiss canton of Grigioni to enchanting Soverato, a city caressed by the waves of the Ionian sea and framed by charming hills in the province of Catanzaro. It was here, among pristine beaches and lush chestnut trees, while Lucio Battisti’s sang “Il mio canto libero” and Pietro Mennea’s sprinted towards a new 200 meter world-record, that Vincenzo Ferraro and his wife Barbara Battaglia opened a classic “dry cleaners” and named it “la Nivea”.
After a few years the family-owned business had clear perspectives for investments and growth, also thanks to its impeccable reputation. “My wife Loredana and I, together with my brother Marco, were very young when we started working at the laundry – says Vincenzo’s son, Franco Ferraro – and among the reasons why we are able to manage and constantly update it as the market evolves is the experience we gained as youngsters working next to our indefatigable parents.”
“On the other hand, maybe it was preordained – Franco Ferraro continues – considering that when I was a boy before I went to school my mother would ask me to go down to the shop at 7:30 AM, open it and pick up the personal laundry clients dropped off before going to work, so she could stay and take care of my brother Marco, who was 10 years younger than me”.
You learned the hard way, as they say. “Even more so – Franco states – since in 1977, a few months after the laundry opened, my father decided to go back to work in Switzerland so they could pay off the debts incurred to open the business even faster”.
In 1982 the dry cleaning shop in Soverato was sold and the current laundry business, which uses the wet cleaning method and serves exclusively restaurants, hotels and vacation clubs in the area, was opened in the nearby city of Satriano.
Those years were difficult: lots of work, competencies to develop, truly a “pioneering” effort. In any case – says Franco Ferraro – my brother, Loredana, and I (Loredana back then was my girlfriend and now is my wife), immediately got accustomed to the pace, the objectives and workload organization of a forward-thinking laundry”. In fact it only took a few years for Nuova Nivea to undergo a radical transformation, become a reference point in the hotel and tourism sector and assume the trends and rhythms of a full-fledged industrial laundry. A role it continues to fulfill with authority and forward-thinking dynamics, demonstrating that when the foundation of a company is financially but most importantly sound from a cultural perspective, it will be able to switch to a higher gear and face any type challenge in times of prosperity or crisis. “As everyone knows, this is a lean period of time – explains Ferraro – but this is exactly why only a solid family structure can withstand it and expand as soon as possible thereafter. First and foremost, it can rely on that priceless asset known as competencies”. “In other words – the entrepreneur clarifies – reliability that encompasses everything the customer truly cares about. These days they seem obsessed with price and their ability to sustain it, but at the same time they are still sensitive to the value of quality in terms of longevity and excellent craftsmanship. In this regard, I am specifically talking about the line of table and bed linens which gives Ferraro a competitive edge over textile service companies by virtue of yarn quality, embroidery, stripes, packaging. Once customers realize this, it will be difficult for them to walk away although they may still try to haggle over the price”.
The competencies Franco Ferraro talks about are on the other hand the same by which he became a counselor for the Tourism department of Assosistema; an institutional role that, as if it were possible, make his stand on the most recurring topics in the laundry supply chain even more authoritative. Following are his opinions on three of the most current issues in Italy.
On the areas of competence: “Italy urgently needs clear regulations by which yesterday’s glorious dry cleaner, today’s wet and dry cleaners, could provide only personal services while companies are served by industrial laundries. Today’s excessive mix of competencies only contributes to create confusion and negatively affects the entire sector”.
On paper and disposable items in general: “If a hotel or restaurant opts to use single-use articles they should assume the specific responsibilities that derive from their failing to choose cotton textiles which are indisputably better for the environment and guaranteed to yield financial benefits for the entire supply chain. We would only need to regulate reusable items, for example by detaxing TaRSU (waste management tax) costs by a certain percentage to the detriment of disposable items, the fees for which would increase instead, so that municipalities no longer have to split them among the entire population at the end of the year”.
On laundering: “Too many companies these days lack incentives to develop new types of detergent, those known as formulated detergents, which are capable of cleaning as well as protecting the investment represented by the items being washed to the maximum possible extent. This results from several factors: the lack of trained human resources, the laundry process being supervised by chemists who improvise and hardly inclined to keep up with the latest developments , and the inability to effectively minimize water consumption rates. Using technologically advanced continuous tunnel washers requires on-going specialized training that is driven by competence, not improvisation.
Fortunately, the present situation also gives us some reasons to be optimistic. “In this regard I was favorably impressed by the last EXPOdetergo International event, which I attended with my father and my brother. We truly enjoyed visiting the stands of machine manufacturers and see that they finally implemented important innovations for control systems used in the laundry process. For example, Jensen equipped the water recovery tanks of its continuous tunnel washers with chemical detection systems, while Kannegiesser ingeniously thought to install filters in the process water recovery tank. This clearly indicates that something in the cleaning system is not working properly”.
These battles are everything but easy. Ferraro himself is among the first to acknowledge this by saying “These days we must figure things out by ourselves. A short while ago our laundry contacted a specialized center to obtain guidelines on the methods and conditions of use of detergents just to hear that we should request the data directly from the detergents manufacturing companies….”
Naturally it’s disconcerting. But according to Franco Ferraro, we should get over it quickly “because – he explains – although it’s true that tomorrow is another day, it’s always best to solve the problems today”.
Detergo – October 2014