The Century Club 2016
From linen services to packaging and construction companies, and from selling furs to machine bearings, DBusiness pays tribute to companies that are 100 years old or more.
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ZACHARY SANDLER WISH, CEO AND OWNER OF MIDWEST LINEN AND UNIFORM SERVICE, AND HIS FATHER, STUART WISH, PRESIDENT, CONTINUE TO OPERATE THE BUSINESS STARTED NEARLY 130 YEARS AGo.
Midwest Linen and Uniform Service
GROWING WITH DETROIT
When the London Chop House opened in 1938, Julie Sandler’s Midwest Linen and Uniform Service provided the popular restaurant with its tablecloths and napkins. Eighty-five years later, when the London Chop House reopened after being closed nearly 20 years, Zachary Sandler Wish, Julie Sandler’s grandson and Midwest’s current CEO, was proud that his family’s legacy of service to so many of Detroit’s restaurant and hospitality businesses was still going strong.
The reopening of the Chop House in 2013, and the recent resurgence of Detroit’s culinary scene, has accounted for the bulk of Midwest Linen’s 23 percent growth since mid-2014.
Today the surge of other new Detroit eateries is so significant that Wish is considering re-
establishing operations within the city. Although the company’s offices and laundering operations are in Pontiac, it still owns two buildings in Detroit where Russian immigrant Reuben Sandler, Zachary Wish’s great-grandfather,
established Midwest Linen 128 years ago.
“We’ll probably have a location open in the city in the next few years,” Wish says. “Right now I’m 50-50 on it because we’re outgrowing here.”
Those odds may change: Wish is exploding with ideas for expanding the family-owned company he joined when he began picking up linens in 2001 after graduating from high school. Right now he’s launching an offshoot business, Midwest Restaurant Supply, to stock eateries with everything from silverware to cleaning supplies.
“We’re trying to be the place that, when you’re opening a restaurant, you come to us,” Wish says.
In Birmingham, eight restaurants use Midwest’s table linens, chef coats, and nonslip doorway mats, Wish says. But his ideas for growing the business don’t stop with client lists and newservices; it also extends to his employees.
A DELIVERY TRUCK FROM THE 1950S.
He is also transparent with his 48 employees, and treats them in ways that allow him to say his unionized workers have never filed a grievance and tend to stay with the company. Of 10 drivers, five have been with the company over a decade. “Without them, we’ll have the same product as anyone else,” he says. Within the office, Wish has established an incentive for his experienced salespeople to mentor new hires by giving the trainers part of the trainees’ commissions.
Wish’s person-to-person attitude extends beyond the company’s walls to “out in the field,” where he meets almost daily with one or more of his 475 clients. “I consider myself to be in the restaurant and hospitality industry,” he says. “Unless you’re hands-on, you’re not going to know anybody.”
Apart from surviving the global economic crisis in 2008, a diverse group of clients helped the company ward off reliance on a single industry. “After the crash of 2008 we hung on by this much,” says Wish, with his right thumb and index finger almost touching one another. “My father (Stuart Wish, president) personally kept this place going.”
In addition to the restaurant sector, Midwest Linen launders linens for hospitals and medical offices. This year is looking to be a banner year, as Wish says 7.5 million pounds of linens from six states will roll through the company’s giant washers and roller-type ironers. He estimates 2015 gross revenue was between $8 million and $10 million.
“Quality is what we’re about,” Wish says.