For 123 years, CLS has retained the top spot as the leading supplier of linen, uniforms, and facility products throughout Michigan’s lower peninsula. We are thrilled that the communities we serve have worked with us to make this happen. Our 123rd anniversary is a celebration of you as much as it is about CLS. It’s also an opportunity to look back on how we got here and why our service works for our clients.
All the way back in 1899, CLS started out as Kalamazoo Laundry Company. Originally, we operated with horse-drawn carriages as well as individual ironing boards and hand irons. The roads around us weren’t paved, our loads were much smaller, and we sorted everything by hand. We even used to provide personal laundry services to households.
Ted Vander Meer, who used to work in several capacities at Kalamazoo Laundry Company, purchased it outright in 1963. The name was changed shortly thereafter to Continental Linen Service and later CLS in 1999 as we expanded our uniform rental service. Ted has since passed the company on to his children and granddaughter. Now, CLS has three owners: CEO Ron Vander Meer and President Kurt Vander Meer are Ted’s sons while Senior Vice President Sarah Vander Meer is Ron’s daughter. Our family has greatly expanded CLS’s reach beyond Kalamazoo to the rest of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
We’re able to celebrate our 123rd anniversary because of the experience we’ve gained along the way. We apply our over a century of knowledge to each of our products and services to meet our clients’ needs. Kurt Vander Meer penned a document titled “Seven Truths” that summarizes what we’ve learned. Here are those seven truths:
- Relationships Matter. We need to fundamentally understand our clients to provide them with service that meets their needs. That comes through long-lasting relationships.
- People Matter. Investing in the people that make up our team leads to the success we celebrate on our 123rd anniversary.
- Culture Means Everything. It doesn’t matter how talented your staff is or how financially successful the business is if you can’t retain employees with a vibrant culture.
- Customers Should Always Come First. More than just a mantra, we focus on meeting our clients’ needs before anyone else’s, followed by our staff and then our shareholders.
- Don’t Ever Stop Learning. It’s easy to adopt an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality after so many years in the industry. However, continuing to grow and adapt to the changing world around us prevents stagnation and keeps the business running in the long run.
- Trust is Something You Earn. We work closely with our clients to ensure we are giving them what they need, earning their trust through effective service.
- Teamwork is Not Just a Word. On top of meeting our clients’ needs, we focus on giving our staff a workplace they can rely on and enjoy contributing to.
Whether your business has been with us for decades or is just signing up, thank you for helping us reach our 123rd anniversary. We have survived through pandemics, wars, depressions, and just about anything the world has to throw at us thanks to your support. For more information on our company history or our high-quality products and services, please visit our website here.