Industrial Launderer Magazine
Wow! Seventy-five years and we’re still going strong. We’re still a family business and we’re still headquartered in Santa Barbara. Mission Linen Supply has a lot of reasons to be grateful and we thank our customers, employees, and suppliers for their many years of loyalty.
As Dad used to say, “Our customer is our business,” and now when we include our employees, we can truly say, “Our business is our family.” George Benson Page, my Dad, founded Mission Linen Supply in 1930 on Montecito Street, where we still operate and have offices today. Dad was raised in the hills of Tennessee on a farm. Growing up he had always wanted to see a Tom Mix “talking picture show.” One day he and his cousin Roy rode their mules into a small town and, after seeing the movie, vowed to become cowboys. To earn the money to move west, Dad sold his pigs. Selling the pigs got him into big trouble with his Pa so he ended up having to stay in Tennessee and move in with Aunt Mag and her brood of 14 children. At the age of 16, restless and needing to earn some money, he and two of his brothers headed for Ohio to work for Goodyear Tire Co. While working for Goodyear, he set a record for retreating tires on the production floor. After a year, saving every penny he could, Dad hopped on a boxcar heading for Texas to become a cowboy.
Upon reaching Texas he quickly discovered there was no work available and was advised to go to California. Still determined, in 1919 he hopped back on a boxcar and made it all the way to California. Upon arriving there, he quickly found a job as a laborer on a Burbank farm. Ever industrious, Dad quickly decided to take a job at a gas station in Los Angeles, which would prove to be a huge turning point in his life. The station owner thought Dad was too young, but Dad convinced the owner to give him a chance. Dad quickly showed him that he was a hard worker. After a few weeks of work the owner of the gas station thought so highly of Dad that he invited him to live with his family.
Dad had great interpersonal skills and could be very charming. Later, Dad took a job working on equipment for Peerless Laundry. (“That’s when I got laundry in my blood,” he would say.) Hearing of another laundry across town, Dad persuaded the owner of Domestic Laundry to let him fix up an old truck rusting in the alley and solicit customers on a straight commission basis. In six months, he had built the largest route the laundry had ever seen. As the years passed, Dad learned all about the laundry business, and the age of 27, he left Los Angeles for a sleepy beach town 100 miles north called Santa Barbara, where opportunities were better.
He was soon running a route for Troy Laundry earning a straight commission. Again, he grew his route to the largest in the company. He once told me how Santa Barbara, at that time, was an Easterner’s vacation get away for the wealthy. Knowing this he would attend the weekly dances held by servants, chauffeurs, and groundskeepers. He soon became their friends. Through them, he quickly built a big laundry route in a short time. He eventually persuaded the owner to let him lease the laundry during the night so he could run his own operation. The owner agreed and Dad soon had more volume from his night shift than the owner had during the day.
After a few months of 16-hour days, Dad felt he could successfully run the small operation so he decided he wanted to buy the business, but he needed $10,000. Although it was only 18 months after the 1929 financial disaster, as an outstanding salesman he was able to convince the banker that he could be successful. Mission Linen Supply was born. A year later, he built his own plant next door. The two plants are still in operations today. Dad was now on his way to improving laundry operations, expanding services, and increasing sales.
One of the many stories which have become legend is the anecdote of Colonel “Max” Fleischmann and his 110-foot yacht “Haida.” For years, the routine had been that whenever Haida was to anchor off Santa Barbara, all the laundry trucks would line up and wait at the wharf to get their share of the laundry on board. But on one such visit, Dad got the idea to row out and meet Haida before it arrived at the anchorage. Dad said the captain was so surprised to see him in that little rowboat that he invited him aboard. And when Haida did anchor off Santa Barbara, all the waiting laundry trucks learned that Mission had already made arrangements to handle its laundry requirements. Perhaps no other story better demonstrates my father’s work ethic and dedication to our customers. Those values are alive and well today and continue to be the cornerstone of Mission Linen Supply’s tremendous success. One of his favorite sayings was, “The harder you work, the luckier you become.” We believe that continues to be true.