The history of the South Eastern Fabricare Association is one chapter in the book of trade association history. The advent of trade associations fostered the growth of industry and new goods and services. The establishment of such organizations is a consequence of circumstances that must be put into perspective to fully appreciate their existence.
Trade Associations have been traced back to the Bible, from the ancient empire of Egypt, progressing to the Romans who introduced apprentice training for wages. The great guilds of the European Middle Ages offered services to those who belonged. They had standards of quality craftsmanship and entrance requirements. The demand for special skills complemented the Renaissance. It set the stage in the marketplace for cooperation and sharing common interests. Merchants and traders formed guilds for protection, but their greed was self-serving as a means to an end of profiteering.
During the American industrial revolution, the guild-controlled monopolies suppressed individuality and were more hindrance than help to the national interest. The restraint of supply to increase demand for return of financial gain was a practice which succumbed to the collective newfound nationalism. In 1890, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act outlawed undue and unreasonable business agreements. This was followed by the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, declaring illegal "unfair methods of competition in commerce."
Drycleaning was discovered in 1825 in France. A servant in the household of Jean-Baptist Jolly spilled the contents of a lamp on a tablecloth. After it dried, the master of the house realized the fuel removed stains from the cloth. He proceeded to purchase a dyeing business.
In the United States, the Laundryowners National Association was founded in 1883. Also, the National Association of Dyers and Cleaners (NADC) began in 1907 and encouraged the formation of state organizations. That year on March 18th in Raleigh, North Carolina, the foundation was laid for the Laundrymen's Association of North Carolina.
The purpose of the organization was "to bring about a better acquaintance of all persons engaged in the laundry business in the state of North Carolina and the adoption and maintenance of such plans as to tend to the mutual benefit and education of its members."
A meeting was held that summer in Charlotte to adopt a Constitution and By-Laws. Because of interest which developed since March, ten laundryowners from South Carolina attended. Applications were accepted from them.
At the next meeting held in March 1908 in Columbia, the name of the association was changed to the Launderers Association of the Carolinas. Applications for membership were extended to "all supply and machinery houses" on an associate basis. During the next five years, meetings were held throughout North and South Carolina.
In August 1911, a representative (George Fauss) from the Georgia Launderers Association was delegated to apply for membership. In 1912, the Launderers Association of the Carolinas unanimously elected as members the Georgia Launderers Association. A new Constitution and By-Laws were amended, and the name changed to the Laundryowners Association of the Carolinas and Georgia.
Theoretically, as membership increases, so does an association's influence in the scope of current events. For example, in the years prior to World War I (1914-1916), the National Association of Dyers and Cleaners helped defeat the proposed two percent war tax on gasoline. Nevertheless, the war in Europe still caused a rise in price.
In May 1923, the Laundryowners Association of the Carolinas and Georgia resolved to admit the state of Florida (six Florida laundryowners submitted applications for membership). The Constitution was amended to reflect this expansion. Documentation reveals that the Laundryowners Association of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida produced applications in conjunction with the Laundryowners National Association (established in 1883).
Over the years, occupational reforms were necessary to reduce fire hazards. Plant owners who complied with ordinances were bitter about operators who ignored the laws. Chemists developed more effective synthetic cleaning solvents. Records are unavailable, but the Laundryowners Association of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida may have dissolved during this period. The North Carolina Association of Cleaners and Dyers was founded in 1931. In 1939, it became the North Carolina Institute of Laundering and Drycleaning. A certificate of incorporation indicated that in 1946, this organization became the North Carolina Association of Launderers and Cleaners, Inc., according to Sunny Smith, retired Executive Director.
The National Association of Dyers and Cleaners became the Institute of Cleaning and Dyeing in 1947. That was a landmark year. In the year 1947, on January 24th, a certificate of incorporation was issued to the South Carolina Association of Launderers and Cleaners. The purpose was to encourage and foster ethical standards in business, to acquire and distribute economic information, and to effect better social and business relationships between members.
In the 1940's in Georgia, ten men got together during wartime to get supplies (including Sam Wicks, Cliff Morgan, and Reppard Landers). They formed the Greater Atlanta Drycleaners and Launderers Association to go to Washington to fight price fixing. The Office of Price Administration had set ceiling prices on all drycleaning services and fined drycleaners who did not adhere to the price restraints.
The Georgia Laundry and Cleaners Association evolved from this outfit, according to Cliff Morgan, Jr. of Morgan's Cleaners and Laundry (presently Pinckard & Morgan Cleaners & Laundry of Decatur, GA).
On September 24th, 1947, a petition of 11 laundryowners was presented to the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia. It stated that they desired to be incorporated under the name of the Georgia Laundry and Cleaners Association. The objective was:
- to promote closer relationships for literary, social and educational purposes among launderers, dry cleaners and persons, firms, and corporations engaged in allied trades, industries, and professionals in the State of Georgia; and
- to maintain high ethical standards of doing business; and
- to aid, promote and foster worthy enterprises of any and every kind that may be of benefit to its members.
Also in 1947, the Florida Institute of Launderers and Cleaners (FILAC) was founded. Five men who felt the need for a state organization toured the state creating interest among plantowners. The association was formed in Orlando in the spring of 1948.
The Alabama Laundry and Cleaners Association held meetings in the early 1950's, recalled Charles Smith III, past President. The Alabama Laundry and Cleaners Association was an outgrowth of the Southern Laundry and Cleaners Association, according to Gladys McNeal, also past President.
After World War II, peacetime accompanied an increase in trade associations and resurgence in state conventions. Many new fabrics were marketed. During the Korean War (1950 to 1953), a shortage of solvents and hangers was not as critical as it was during World War II. Drycleaners became more customer service oriented as drive-in windows gained popularity in the 1950's. In 1953, the Institute of Cleaning and Dyeing (formerly the National Assocation of Dyers and Cleaners) became the National Institute of Drycleaning (NID).
In 1957, the Georgia Laundry and Cleaners Association included the president of the Greater Atlanta Drycleaners and Launderers Association as a member of the board of directors. The board voted to pay 50 percent of the operation expenses of the office maintained by both associations (1053 W. Peachtree St., N.W., Suites 203-204, Atlanta). A minor name change was made. In September 1960, the organization became the Georgia Launderers and Cleaners Association, Inc.
Coin operated self-service drycleaning shops became widespread in the 1960's. Coin-operated laundries were accepted as members of the Georgia Launderers and Cleaners Association in 1961. Also in 1961, the South Carolina Association of Launderers and Cleaners accepted membership from an African American ("colored") plant.
The Georgia Launderers and Cleaners Association voted on a sum to spend on new quarters with the Greater Atlanta Drycleaners and Launderers Association defraying half the cost. The dismayed members of the Greater Atlanta Drycleaners and Launderers Association counter-proposed that the Georgia Launderers and Cleaners Association give them one-third of surplus funds received from exhibits in future years. The request was for new furniture, equipment, and quarters for the operation of both. Promptly, a vote was passed separate the operations of both associations by June 1963. The Georgia Launderers and Cleaners Association relocated to 1145 Peachtree St., N.E., Suite 136, Atlanta.
In August 1963, a resolution was passed recognizing that the association was on the threshold of a new era in which women had become increasingly important to the business world. They voted to establish a women's auxiliary.
A consolidation with Alabama and South Carolina was discussed in 1964, but viewed as impractical at the time. In the late 1960's, the office moved to Suite 438 for more space. Allied trade firms became eligible for associate membership.
In 1969, the South Carolina Association of Launderers and Cleaners merged activities with the North Carolina Association of Launderers and Cleaners for the next three years. In September 1970, U.S. President Nixon sent a thank you letter for the South Carolina association's support on the southeast Asia issue.
On April 4, 1972, the Florida Institute of Laundering and Cleaning (FILAC) met with the Georgia Launderers and Cleaners Association. They agreed to merge. On July 6, 1972, the name officially changed to the South Eastern Fabricare Association (SEFA). That year, SEFA started the Launderers and Cleaners Credit Union (Sunbelt Credit Union as of 1989) with $10,000. Part of FILAC remains an active separate entity today.
At a South Carolina meeting on September 10th, 1972, Charles Lindsay, Executive Director, and George Walker, President of South Eastern Fabricare Association were introduced. Lindsay presented a detailed report on the advantages of a merger, and how SEFA would operate should South Carolina drycleaners decide to join. Also in their planning was the proposed affiliation with the International Fabricare Institute. After discussion, it was the general feeling of the board not to merge with SEFA at the time.
In 1972, the National Institute of Drycleaning (NID) joined the American Institute of Launderers (AIL, formerly the Laundryowners National Association) to become today's International Fabricare Institute (IFI). In August 1972, IFI forwarded a joint membership proposal to SEFA. Two board members of the South Carolina Association of Launderers and Cleaners reported interest of South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee to join SEFA. At a November SEFA meeting, Gene Ginedovic of the International Fabricare Institute talked about the merger of NID and AIL into IFI. The SEFA Board of Directors authorized their president, George Walker, to sign a contract.
The South Eastern Fabricare Association signed an agreement with the International Fabricare Institute January 1, 1973. The intent of this agreement was:
- to establish a joint program betweeen IFI and SEFA whereby the two associations would work together to promote the general welfare of the fabricare and related industries in the states of Georgia and Florida.
The agreement did not extend beyond these states. SEFA dues were 50 percent of IFI dues.
In January 1975, Charles Lindsay resigned, and Sam Bunn became Executive Director of SEFA. The office was relocated from 1639 Tullie Circle, N.E., Suite 177, Atlanta to 231 S. 10th St., Griffin. Bobby Landers was elected President of SEFA in September.
In January 1976, Bobby Landers, President, and Sam Bunn, Executive Director of SEFA, attended a meeting of the South Carolina Association of Launderers and Cleaners. A feasibility study on a merger of the two organizations was initiated. On October 3, 1976, the South Carolina Association of Launderers and Cleaners merged with the South Eastern Fabricare Association. Wheeler Powell, South Carolina President, was appointed with three other board members to serve on the SEFA board. A dissolution committee was assigned for the South Carolina Association. On October 14, 1976, an addendum was added to the SEFA/IFI agreement which added South Carolina and Alabama. Although Alabama did not have an active membership at the time, Gladys McNeal served as custodian of the funds, and she turned them over to SEFA with the stipulation that they be used to help Alabama drycleaners.
Inflation and the "Energy Crisis" of the 1970's caused grave concern. At a meeting in 1977, SEFA Director Ed Thomas advised Sam Bunn of the gas crisis in Georgia. The board sent a telegram to Atlanta Gas Light Co. asking that drycleaners and laundries be given an equitable allotment of gas.
On April 9, 1978, papers were signed to dissolve the corporation of the South Carolina Association of Launderers and Cleaners. A SEFA/IFI agreement was approved including Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama. The credit union passed half a million dollars in assets.
In 1983, the South Eastern Fabricare Association was relocated from 231-B S. 10th St., Griffin to 3401 Norman Berry Dr., Suite 264, East Point, Georgia. In 1993, the office was relocated again to 500 Sugar Mill Rd., Suite 200-A, Atlanta.
The South Eastern Fabricare Association has more than 900 members to date. The organization grows and adapts to the ebbs and flows of change, responding to society's needs and preparing for the future. It continues to make a positive contribution to the drycleaning industry.