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    Ralphs Opens First In-Store Dry Cleaner from Dress For Success

    COMPTON, Calif. -- A Ralphs grocery store in Redondo Beach, Calif. last week became the first in the Kroger-owned banner to feature an in-store dry cleaning operation, run by Dress For Success Cleaners (DFS), a Santa Ana, Calif.-based operator of dry cleaning and laundry locations exclusively in supermarkets.

    COMPTON, Calif. -- A Ralphs grocery store in Redondo Beach, Calif. last week became the first in the Kroger-owned banner to feature an in-store dry cleaning operation, run by Dress For Success Cleaners (DFS), a Santa Ana, Calif.-based operator of dry cleaning and laundry locations exclusively in supermarkets.

    The DFS dry cleaning module, added as part of the Ralphs store's remodel, occupies about 120 square feet, at the customer service counter.

    DFS also runs dry cleaning locations nationwide, including stores operated by Vons, Albertsons, Giant Eagle, Publix, Marsh, Kroger, and Jewel, as well as in supermarkets in Australia. Altogether, DFS runs almost 300 locations, according to company spokesman Bruce C. Stegmaier.

    When asked how many additional Ralphs locations would feature DFS locations, Stegmaier replied, "Right now this is a pilot. We're looking at more locations with Ralphs, both remodels and new stores, but we're waiting to see how this one does."

    Stegmaier added that he was particularly excited about the Ralphs location because it was one of the first true store-within-a-store locations DFS has operated. DFS operations are typically located at the service counter, he explained, but the new Ralphs location, with its own wall finishes and signage, has the feel of a separate store.

    Although other supermarkets operate dry-cleaning services in their stores usually in collaboration with a local business--he pointed to Wegmans as an example -- Stegmaier said such ventures often fail, primarily because, he said, small local companies don't have the rigorous quality control systems DFS has instituted, including a $1 million computer system, a team of district managers that is always in the field, and two full-time managers of plant operations who are dry cleaning experts.

    Some years ago, Ralphs and DFS attempted a dry cleaning operation through a complicated third-party arrangement, according to Stegmaier. That venture was not successful because the third-party licensor involved did not have the necessary quality control systems in place, he noted.

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