Fred Ortiz sells six College Hill Cleaners

UPDATED — Fred Ortiz has sold all of his College Hill Cleaners stores.

“After 39 years, I thought it was just enough dry cleaning for me.”

He started in the business working for someone else in 1977 and then opened his own College Hill Cleaners in 1988.

His first store was at 4618 E. Central. At the chain’s peak, Ortiz had nine stores, seven of which were on the east side along with ones in Derby and Andover.

Even as he expanded beyond College Hill, Ortiz decided to keep that name.

“I had such a good reputation there at the central location,” he says.

Bradley Fair was an early location.

“I was the second tenant at Bradley Fair,” Ortiz says.

In the last several years, he downsized to six stores.

“The dry cleaning industry just changed tremendously,” Ortiz says.

He says 9-11 particularly hurt. Some of his stores were too close together as well, Ortiz says.

In the Bag Cleaners purchased Ortiz’s stores in Bel Aire, Reed’s Cove Plaza and Derby, where Chad Stafford of Occidental Management handled the deal for the Spring Creek space.

In the Bag owner Dave Coyle says the two Wichita stores were close to two of his 16 stores, so he purchased them in an attempt to win those customers for his existing stores.

“I felt like it would really be a good win,” Coyle says. “Those two stores have now become really two of our busiest stores.”

He also already had a store in Derby, so now he has two there.

“I really felt like Derby is large enough that we could sustain two stores.”

So far, Coyle says that’s the case.

Martinizing Dry Cleaning purchased the College Hill Cleaners in Bradley Fair and one at a Crestview shopping center at 127th Street East and Central.

“My original location … went to Elite Cleaners,” Ortiz says.

“He was wanting to get out, and I was wanting to get in,” says Elite owner Chris Hogard, who opened his first cleaners last year.

Hogard says he wasn’t particularly looking to expand right now, but he says, “You get an opportunity, you jump on it.”

Though Hogard says he likes the nostalgia of having the original College Hill Cleaners, he says he’s in the process of changing the name to Elite Cleaners.

Like Hogard, Martinizing owner Nancy Staal says the College Hill Cleaners opportunity “came out of the blue, so we did it.”

With the new stores, Martinizing now has five sites.

“It enhances our presence on the east side.”

So where will Ortiz get his own clothes dry cleaned now?

Turns out he’ll continue doing them himself.

Ortiz and his son, Chad, have a franchise – CRDN of Central and Western Kansas – to do textile cleaning for items such as drapes, bedspreads, pillows, clothing, stuffed animals and shoes that have suffered fire, smoke and water damage.

“My son and I are going to continue that,” Ortiz says.

“It’s totally different than the regular retail dry cleaning,” he says. Ortiz says it’s “just a little intriguing to me. It’s bringing the fun back into it for me. But don’t get me wrong, I do want to slow down a little bit.”

Ortiz says his son and office manager Samantha Post really handle the business.

“It’s going to free up some time for me,” he says.

Ortiz says he wants to reinstate his real estate license, which he had in the early 1990s.

“I totally enjoy the commercial side,” he says.

Ortiz owns Reed’s Cove, a commercial center near 21st Street North and 127th Street East. He says he’s not necessarily looking to do more developments, but Ortiz says he’d like to help others with their deals.

“I enjoy that. Just the negotiation parts and working out details,” he says. “That’s the fun part for me. Anybody can dry clean clothes.”