PITTSBURGH BUSINESS TIMES

Vol. 10, No.6
September 17-23, 1990

Commercial Textiles finds profit in uniformity Homestead firm tackles national uniform market

By JEANNE MOLYNEAUX

When you took through the advertising brochure of whole sale uniform and linen distributor Commercial Textiles, you won't see any meticulously groomed man or pretty women modeling latest in work pants and chef's coats. Instead, line sketches of faceless figures, drawn by local artists, model the firm's classic work garments.

Though the brochures may be simple and low-budget when compared to the competitor's, they illustrate the same homey, purposely non-glitzy approach to business which has brought orders pouring into their Homestead headquarters from customers in Hawaii, the Grand Cayman Islands, California and points across the United States.

Quite an accomplishment for a company which just four years ago faced the possibility of going out of business.

Commercial Textiles was the realization of a dream for founder Milton Frischman. A veteran of the local textile business, Frischman, at 59, put his life savings into the fledgling business after identifying a need in the local market for a quality wholesale uniform and linen distributor which could effectively service the hotel and restaurant industries.

Occupying space in a rented one-room store on a side street in Homestead, the company operated as the classic small family business, with both his wife, Rosalyn, and daughter, Cindy, now 28, working together.

But, just as the company began building its base of mostly local clients, tragedy struck when Milton was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away soon after.

Upon their father's dead, his sons, who were living in California, returned home to help their mother and sister run the family business.

At the time, David, now 37, was working as a film distributor for Twentieth Century Fox and Les, 30, had recently begun his own placement search firm.

But as they prepared to grab the reins of the business, they found the firm floundering and in financial distress.

Advisors urged them to sell, insisting that the company could not generate enough income for four persons to live on comfortably. Though the news was upsetting, the family decided to try to make the best of the situation.

Showing the same kind of raw spirit that spearheaded the Homestead Community's own revitalization, the Frischmans bearded down and relied on their natural business savvy to reshape their small business.

Purchasing a computer system that would allow them to broaden their customer sales base and setting up a toll-free telephone number, the Frischmans began calling on potential customers throughout the country.

Offering quick delivery, attention to detail and low prices - buying in large quantities and stocking merchandise - they steadily created a diverse client base including country clubs, universities, hotels, restaurants and resorts across the country through aggressive telemarketing.

Mixing-down home service with advanced computer technology, the firm has combined tried-and-true business standard of the past and present to come up with a winning recipe for success.

"People liked our goods, they liked our quality and they loved our prices, "said David Frischman, president of the firm.

though competition within the uniform industry consist of numerous small and large firms scattered throughout the country, Frischman believes his family has been able to distinguish Commercial Textiles by keeping their fingers on the pulse of customer product needs, while constantly building new and existing accounts.

"We're hungry. We treat our small customers the same as we do persons who give us $10,000 (in business)," said Frischman, who explained that the company has always realized that the plumber or young chef that walks into their store and places a $25 order could one day become one of their biggest accounts"

"We really appreciate the business," said Frischman.

Today the firm is beginning to reap the benefits of their efforts. The company owns the two-story building it occupies in Homestead's business district and David, Les and Cindy each draw a salary of $33,000.

Their client base has gone from 50 accounts to 2,000 with the Pittsburgh market representing approximately 30 percent of their total business.

This year firm expects to reach sales of $1.2 million, up from $650,000 in 1989.

And as business expands so does the firm's product line.

According to David Frischman, a large market exits in embroidered shirts, silkscreen T-Shirts and other promotional clothing which they supply to customers such as the Pittsburgh Sports Garden, the University of Notre Dame, Denny's, Houlihans and The Ground Round.

"We are swamped," said Frischman, who contends with is the age-old complaint of not being able to find good help.

With eight employees, Commercial Textiles plans to employ 20 within a year and has recently hired two national sales representatives, one of which will try to crack the large Atlantic City casino market.

Additionally, they are considering plans to open a branch on the West Coast.

"We stuck together as a family, struggling at the beginning to the point where the business is busting at the seams," said Frischman.


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