The Lechner Story
“I would rather undercharge the customer $1.00 than overcharge by 10 cents,
because you have to treat each customer with fairness and honesty.”
Larry Lechner, Chairman
Back in 1857, A.W. Zengeler announced the opening of the New York Steam Dye Works located at 208 South Clark Street in the frontier city of Chicago, Illinois. He emigrated from Germany, with a thorough knowledge of the fabric dyeing business. The young Zengeler soon enjoyed a flourishing business in the rapidly growing Chicago market, which was fast becoming a busy metropolis.
In 1871, the year of the great Chicago fire, in common with many other businesses, the New York Steam Dye Works was reduced to a mass of charred ruins. The new Chicago, which rapidly sprung up after the great fire, again found the Zengelers pushing forward to establish yet another dyeing plant at Cottage Grove and Prairie Avenues, just south of today’s Chicago downtown area. About this time, the dry cleaning process made its first appearance and a modern dry cleaning department was added to the dyeing plant. Both operations continued to enjoy a healthy growth.
His son assumed the active charge of enlarging the cleaning and dyeing plant, keeping abreast of progress during the turn of the century. With the pioneer instinct still very much alive, the Zengelers cleaning and dyeing plant operated in Lake Forest in 1904 continuing until 1925. Five years later in 1930, Zengeler and his sons were offering the Winnetka and surrounding areas a complete dyeing and cleaning service, based on an expert knowledge gained from the experience of three generations of cleaners and dyers.
During the first half of the 20th century, the company thrived under the leadership of Arthur Zengeler and Ralph Zengeler. A partner, Bob Lechner, joined in 1930 to help steer the company in new directions. His son, Larry Lechner, joined the company in the 60s. A new plant was completed in 1967 in Northbrook. The company continued to add stores, 10 in all, as well as a new dry cleaning package store in Libertyville in 1998. The company also moved into uniform rental in the 1960’s as the dry cleaning market softened when new “wash and wear” fabrics came to the marketplace. In 1985, the company bought Northside Cleaners and Uniform from Mr. Morrie Cornick and doubled its industrial routes to 10. Currently A.W. Zengeler has 15 industrial uniform rental routes.
Today, the company has divested into two with the ownership of dry cleaning division, belonging to Zengeler Family and the ownership of the industrial uniform rental division belonging to Larry Lechner and his sons, Eric and Brian. Both companies bring the “best of both worlds” in dry cleaning and industrial uniform rental services and use their synergy and their knowledge, experience and hard work over the past 100 years to continue to grow into the 21st century.