Alterations by Sarah and Millers Dry Cleaners expand their retail partnership

WICHITA — Some small businesses struggle to compete against big chains, but Alterations by Sarah and Millers Dry Cleaners have found a way around that.

“This is kind of a neat little concept how mom and pops have banded together,” says Alterations co-owner Abdul Arif.

The companies share space near 21st and Maize and Kellogg and Greenwich and are preparing to merge their third and fourth sites.

It’s what Arif calls a strategic partnership to reduce overhead, improve customer service and co-brand to increase their market presence.

“You know, it’s worked out really good,” says Craig Miller, who owns Millers with his parents, Betty and Danny.

“We think it’s a neat little . . . business model,” he says.

The Millers’ first venture with Arif was in 2001 near 21st and Maize.

Arif was looking for west-side space, and he couldn’t find anything less than about $30 a square foot, which he says was too high for him.

The Millers were looking for a new store then, too, and Arif suggested sharing retail space.

Then, in 2008, they moved together near Kellogg and Greenwich.

Now, the Millers at the Cherry Creek shopping center at Harry and Rock is moving across across the street to the Alterations space at 1210 S. Rock Road. Millers will open there March 1.

Next week, Millers will open at the Alterations space at McConnell Air Force Base.

“Anyone that has to . . . open a retail (store) knows the expenses involved with doing that,” Craig Miller says. “Just the sheer square footage cost of rental and utilities.

“We’re able to cut that in half.”

Betty Miller says her customers and Arif’s are basically the same people.

“And dry cleaning and alterations go hand in hand,” she says.

Previously, the businesses simply coexisted. Now, they’re sharing services.

“They handle all our alterations, and we handle all their dry cleaning, and everybody’s happy,” Betty Miller says.

Arif says both businesses are multigenerational — Millers opened in 1977, Alterations opened in 1982 — and share the same philosophy of customer service.

They also have some separate stores, but Arif says he hopes to partner on future sites.

Craig Miller says he’s “absolutely” open to that.

“Anyone that can go in business and only pay half for a nice, large storefront, you’re ahead of the game already.”