Zengeler Cleaners: Family Run Business Welcomes a New Generation

Sixth Generation of Family Enters Cleaning Business

Libertyville, IL: July 26, 2016: Like most college students home for the summer, Kristine Zengeler is working a summer job for extra cash. What sets her apart from just about every other college student? Her employment at her family’s dry cleaning business, where she represents the sixth generation of her family to work for Zengeler Cleaners.

Zengeler Cleaners was founded in 1857 in Chicago by Kristine’s great-great-great grandfather, John Zengeler. The eldest Zengeler was a German immigrant and chemist who opened the family’s first clothing cleaning company. Since opening, Zengeler Cleaners has survived the Civil War, 1871 Chicago Fire, two World Wars and the Great Depression.

How rare is a Sixth Generation Business? Vicki TenHaken, author of "Lessons From Century Club Companies, Managing for Long-Term Success," explains the significance of what a six generation family business represents. “According to Family Business Review only 12% of family businesses survive to the third generation and just 3% operate into the 4th generation and beyond. My data base of Century Club Companies shows just 41 U.S. companies in the 6th generation of family ownership, with another 15 at 7th generation and beyond. For Zengeler Cleaners to move into their 6th generation is an accomplishment to be celebrated - such a company is a true treasure not only for their family, but for their employees and business partners, as well as their community.”

This fall, Kristine will be a sophomore neuroscience major at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Although she’s keeping her post- college plans open, she understands her current role represents something, “pretty cool.” Kristine recognizes that being the first member of the sixth generation of her family to work for Zengeler Cleaners is “an experience not many people get to have.” Her current role is much like that of other family members who started to work for the business: you’ll find Kristine working the front counter helping customers. In the almost 160 years that Zengeler Cleaners has been around, it has had a chance to build a pretty loyal clientele. Kristine says one of the many aspects of her job that she enjoys, is seeing the regulars who are loyal and passionate customers.

Kristine’s father and current president of Zengeler Cleaners, Tom Zengeler, didn’t think he’d end up working in the family business. either. A 1980 graduate of Carmel High School, Zengeler studied hotel/restaurant management in college. His older brother, Bob, Jr., had already brought the fifth generation of the family full-time into the business several years earlier. Tom’s plans for the future didn’t include the dry cleaning business. Yet, by 1985, Tom had joined his family as a business partner, a role that has subsequently led him to become president.

Three Generations of Current Employee still active in the business. Kristine’s grandfather, Bob Zengeler, Sr. thinks it is great to see another generation continue on with the family business. At 86-years-young, you can count Bob Senior as one of the loyal employees who are passionate about the business. Not only does he still work for the Libertyville location on Route 176, he’s there every day. Including Saturday. A picture of Kristine Zengeler, along with Robert Zengeler, Sr. (4th generation) and Tom Zengeler (5th generation) is attched below.

How does a family business last this long? Tom Zengeler attributes the long running success of his family business to, “Keeping the same focus on quality that the company was founded on.” Tom cites examples of making sure the cleaning locations operate as best as they can. “We’ve always wanted to return clothes to our customers in the same condition as if they would have bought it from the store,” explains Tom. Each Zengeler Cleaners locations makes minor repairs to customer’s clothes at no charge. Since the beginning, quality has always been of utmost importance to the Zengeler family. Extra expense is taken to ensure quality and environmentally friendly cleaning products are used.

With eight locations throughout Chicago’s North Shore, Zengeler Cleaners is open six days a week. More information, including location hours and coupons, can be found Online at www.zengelercleaners.com.

Pictured above (left to right): Kristine Zengeler, Robert Zengeler, Sr., and Zengeler Cleaners President Tom Zengeler.