Meet the Team Behind Chem-Dry’s Franchise of the Year

34 years ago, this husband-wife team walked away from other jobs to launch a Chem-Dry franchise, and ever since they’ve grown alongside the brand

“That was a long time ago,” laughs Chem-Dry cleaning franchise owner Debbie Purcell, when talking about the 1983 opening of Colonial Chem-Dry in Upton, Massachusetts. “Chem-Dry is completely different than it was when we opened, but we’re pretty different, as well. Our business was new, and at that point the brand was relatively unknown here. A lot has changed over 30 years!”

Debbie and her husband, Glen, who were named Chem-Dry’s Franchise Owners of the Year at last January’s annual convention, had only been married three years when they became business partners. She was working as a dental assistant, and he was installing fire-protection systems. Owning a Chem-Dry cleaning franchise gave them the chance to leave careers that didn’t offer much upward mobility and begin to chart their own course.

The two began introducing the community to Chem-Dry at home shows, something Debbie says she wouldn’t do today but worked well at the time.

“We went to a couple of small, local events in school gyms and ended up with about 50 bookings,” she recalls. “And back then it was just us, so that was plenty to get us going. We have just continued to market, promote and grow from there.”

Growing a business and a brand

Colonial offers the full roster of Chem-Dry services, including carpet and tile cleaning, leather, fabric and upholstery cleaning, as well as drapery work. They recently added granite countertop renewal and are busy with residential and commercial work. Debbie says that Chem-Dry’s nonstop attention to R&D, which has resulted in lighter and more efficient equipment as well as more than 40 green-certified cleaning products, has been a game-changer.

“There’s more focus today on being eco-friendly and using green cleaning solutions that are safe and not toxic for people and pets,” she explains. “That part of the industry has evolved, and the equipment has also evolved. Now we’re all truck-mounted, and that was an investment we made in the business six to eight years ago.”

Winning the award, she adds, also highlights how much they’ve advanced their business, as well as the Chem-Dry name.

“When we started, there were only three Chem-Dry franchises in existence in Massachusetts, so it was really our job to spread the word,” Debbie says. “Being in business for 34 years and seeing so many of our peers and really great operators receive this award, it had always been a professional goal of ours. The feeling is just amazing, to be put in the same category as the people we’ve always looked up to.”

Chem-Dry’s support systems support growth

Colonial Chem-Dry now has a fleet of six vans, as well as six techs and two office-support staff members to work alongside Glen and Debbie. They have had a sales person on staff in the past, but lost “a really great one” to retirement recently and so are looking for a replacement. That growth in personnel has been necessary due to their hard work in growing the business, but it’s also been made easier thanks to solid back-office support.

“I love the onTrack software, because the scheduling works very well and because the reporting is very insightful,” Debbie says. “It really helps us identify areas that need our attention. That will help us continue to grow the business and take advantage of opportunities.”

That’s what it was all about in 1983, and what it’s all about now, she adds.

“We didn’t want a part-time job; we wanted to create a business and have people working for us,” Debbie says. “We began with one license and as years progressed added to that until we got to the 12 licenses and six territories we have now. I’m glad we grew that way, it’s very important not to bite off more than you can chew. We wanted to make good money and support our lifestyle, and I’d say we’ve definitely met our goal.”

Chem-Dry is the world’s largest carpet and upholstery cleaning franchise with nearly 3,500 franchises in 52 countries, serving 10,000 homes and businesses a day. Chem-Dry has been Entrepreneur magazine’s top-rated carpet cleaning franchise for 29 straight years.  The Chem-Dry Hot Carbonating Extraction process delivers a faster-drying, deeper and more environmentally friendly clean that appeals to both home and business owners. In addition to carpet and area rugs, Chem-Dry provides tile and stone, granite countertops, leather and upholstery cleaning.

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