Reliable Cleaners looks back to future
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
Keith Wallace has been a fixture in Orange civic circles for two decades or more.
His Reliable Dry Cleaners & Laundry recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.
But the realities of modern-day economics are forcing Wallace to consider going back to reach the future.
“Dry cleaning is not a necessity product; as the dollar in your pocket dwindles away, you see more and more stuff you can do for yourself at home,” he said.
So Wallace, who has made drive-through drop-off and pickup lanes a staple of Reliable Cleaners, is looking to expand his offerings to his regular customers by adding home and business pickup and delivery service.
“When we first came to town, we had one location and six delivery trucks,” he said. “My first job when I was 16 was home pickup and delivery.
“We grew our business through routes and then we opened our storefront locations.”
Reliable Dry Cleaners & Laundry currently consists of one dry cleaning plant and headquarters at 1131 Green Ave., Orange, and three storefront locations (3011 N. 16th St., Orange; 2230 Texas Ave., Bridge City; and 1415 N. Main St., Vidor).
The business does daily pickups at Orange hotels and plants.
Wallace, 52, grew up in Beaumont and was in the last graduating class at Forest Park High School. His father, Bill Wallace, had worked at the Industrial Towel & Uniform Co. in Beaumont until it closed and then he bought Smith Reliable Dry Cleaners in Orange in 1979.
Wallace said he helped as his dad, with step-mother Jane Wallace and aunt Jean Phillips, built the former Smith Reliable into a business with many locations.
His father also operated a uniform business, which he sold in 2005.
Keith Wallace bought Reliable Dry Cleaners & Laundry in 2006. He has 22 employees.
“The drive-through is our niche,” he said. “Our saying is ‘Never Unbuckle.’ Our girls know who you are and you never have to get out of your car.”
Wallace and wife Shelly have two sons, Logan, 17, and Lance, 15.
He serves as a Port of Orange commissioner and was a member of the Orange County Economic Development board of directors, prior to its recent reorganization.
“I ran for port commissioner in 2001 for the sole purpose of starting a county-wide economic development corporation,” he said.
“I actually founded Orange County economic development. I’m not bragging, but I was the only one who was willing to run for office to get it started.”
He’s on the forefront who see the area’s well-being tied to the recruitment of new business.
“We’re hoping the economy gets better so we can do better,” Wallace said.