Patric Richardson the Laundry Guy Shares Retailing Success Story

Patric Richardson Laundry Guy Discovery+ star interview

Patric RichardsonIn this podcast I get to talk with Patric Richardson, author of Laundry Love and host of a new series on Discovery+ and HGTV about his background in retail, starting his store Mona Williams in the Mall of America, and his new show The Laundry Guy.

Listen to the podcast here

 

Bob: Congrats on your new show. I am so excited to talk to you today, Patric.

Patric: Thanks. I am super excited to be here. I'm actually kind of starstruck, so I'm going to get through it. But, you know, you're kind of my retail idol, so I'm pretty excited to be here.

Bob: You're the best. Well, Patric has been with SalesRX, my online retail sales training program, for a while. But we're not here to talk about me. I want to hear, so how did you start out in retail, Patric?

Patric: Well, I mean, I love clothes. And I loved clothes ever since I was, you know, a wee lad. So when I wanted to get my sort of first job while I was in college, I wanted to work in a department store. And so I started working for Proffitt's. And then I worked...

Bob: Haven't we all worked for profits? What is Proffitt's?

Patric: They were based in Knoxville. They were bought by Belks a few years ago. And so then from there, I moved to Lexington to go to the University of Kentucky and I worked for McAlpin's. And then, you know, from there, I've worked for a furrier. And then I worked for Neiman Marcus. And then I worked for Nordstrom. And then I opened my own store.

Bob: And since you brought that up, I know you're at the Mall of America and you've been there for a while. So what's it been like in the last year?

Patric: The last year has been interesting. You know, obviously, we're, you know, tourism-centric. My store, we have a ton of locals because, like laundry product, you know, we get a local following. But we watched tourism kind of go down. But, you know, I mean, the Mall, it's kind of an entity. It's not a mall, it's the Mall. So it kind of has held its own probably better than some of my counterparts.

Bob: Well, that's good to hear. And, in fact, my next guest is going to be an SVP from Mall of America. So what a nice connection as we... Jill Renslow?

Patric: Oh, I love her.

Bob: See, listen to the next episode. But you have to listen to this...

Patric: Well, I was already going to.

Bob: Okay, good. So, you know, events are part of what draw people to you. So what happens at Laundry Camp?

Patric: So at Laundry Camp, you basically learn how to do your laundry from beginning to end. You learn about how to sort your clothes, wash them, dry them, and then stains. And I know stains falls out of order. But it's the thing everybody wants to know. So I'm afraid if I do it early, that, you know, then people are no longer interested. So I have to kind of hold it till the end. But I teach you everything because I believe that everything you own can be washed. So nothing goes to the dry cleaner and nothing is off-limits.

Bob: Nothing is off-limits.

Patric: Right. So if you want to wear your Tuxedo jacket to McDonald's, and you spill ketchup on it, no biggie. You can wash it. So you shouldn't have these things in your closet or in your life that you're afraid of.

Bob: I love that idea. Now I need to go back to your store for a minute because I passed over one of my notes that I'd written. So the name of your store, where did you get that from?

Patric: So it's named Mona Williams because as I said, I went to the University of Kentucky. She was from Lexington, and she was the first American woman to be named Best-Dressed Woman in the World in 1933. And when she died, she left her wardrobe to the University of Kentucky.

So when I was studying in college, and I was looking in labs, I mean, I was looking at her oak couture, you know, wardrobe, she left her jewelry to the Smithsonian. And her Sapphire sits next to the Hope Diamond. So, you know, her husband was the richest man in the world. So she had this amazing wardrobe. She was the Muse of Balenciaga. So it was kind of a fascinating thing.

And so, you know, if I'm going to open vintage clothes and say that my vintage clothes are the best vintage clothes, why not name the store after the Best-Dressed Woman in the World?

Bob: In 1933, in Kentucky?

Patric: Yes. Well, she lived in Paris in 1933. It was said in 1933 she had to have spent $100,000 a year on clothes to be named Best-Dressed Woman in the World. Implying that in 1933 she truly did spend $100,000 a year on clothes.

Bob: And she probably didn't have a dry cleaner then I would imagine.

Patric: I would hope not.

Bob: Well, I have to get to your series, which premiered just a few nights ago on Discovery+ and HGTV. I was like, "I know him." And that was so exciting. And you know what I particularly appreciated was there was that little wrinkle, which we'll talk about the bomber jacket moment when you're live filming.

But the stories that came out from it, and your care that I think the woman... Was it the quilt or whatever? But she talked about it, she wanted to give it to her daughter. Like there was a reason, she wasn't just cleaning it for the heck of it. Has that always been the way you've approached things?

Patric: What I always say, and I say it, you know, in a shameless plug for my book. But whatever, I always say that, you know, you do laundry for people that you love. And laundry is all about love. So I approach all of laundry as...that it's an act of service, and it's part of the love language. And, you know, that to me is the whole point.

You know, you don't have to do clothes, you don't have to do your laundry, you get to do your laundry. And you're very lucky because you get to do it. So I have this kind of love approach.

Like I love to iron my husband's shirts, you know, he wears t-shirts every day. So I don't get to a lot. But I love it when I have the chance to do it because it makes him feel good. And he feels like he looks good. And that makes me happy. You know, it's something I can do for him.

Bob: I love that. I've never thought of laundry as an act of service. But you're right. You've been with someone, you want to take care of them. And particularly when you have these momentous items that someone has.

Like my mom, she passed away last year, but there was a baby blanket I must have had as a kid that was incredibly ultra-soft, has little holes in it. I'm sure that someday I'll go to her house and I'll find it again. And there is something about certain pieces of clothing. What is that? Is it bringing us back to being a kid, or is it just tactile, the feel of it?

Patric: It brings you back to that moment, you know, I mean, you'll see things in the series that aren't necessarily child-related. But it brings you to whatever that moment is, you know, be it a letterman jacket, or a wedding dress, or a quilt, you know. You have emotion tied up in that piece. And you know, when it's stained, you still have the emotion, but you're kind of sad, because, you know, this thing that you love so much isn't perfect.

And so when I have the opportunity to go in and make it perfect again, you know, like you get all the emotion, but it's also like, you've cared for it and you've restored it, you know. Like your baby blanket, you know, I mean, if you ever find it, you'll have to send it, I will bring it back because it's great to have it. It's even better to have it when you've cared for it and you've given it, you know, the love and the respect that it deserves.

Bob: Well, and I love that, it's almost like you're putting that memory back together again.

Patric: Right. You're making it whole.

Bob: Yes, I love that. So the bomber jacket, my jaw dropped when you were doing the bomber jacket, you're like, "Oh, go away, I'm just going to go and do this." And you put it in the water. And you're like, "Oh." You can almost hear, you're going like, "What's going...? Stop the camera."

Patric: Well, it's funny.

Bob: You just were cool. You're like, "Hey, no big deal." Can you take our listeners into that moment about what's going on, and how you...?

Patric: Yes, I put stain solution on the back of this jacket, because I was going to scrub the patch. And it said Wattamolla across it. And I started scrubbing, and the color started moving. And you see me in the moment, which it's 100% true, I will not fake it for TV, go, "I have to put this in water."

And I was actually telling that to my producer. I mean, the camera was not a thought in my mind at that point. When I say, "I have to go straight to put this in water," I'm like telling everybody, I'm making a jerking movement. You don't have time to move your cameras, I have to go. And we had this amazing camera guy who actually caught it all.

So it was so incredible because there's no way I would have faked it. Like if it hadn't been caught on camera, you never would have seen it. But, you know, I love that you saw it because that happens. You know, I mean, life does happen, you know, things don't always go exactly like you want. But you just have to kind of adapt.

And so, fortunately, I knew what to do. I plunged it in water and it was fine. You know, the jacket turned out beautifully. And actually, I kind of loved that that moment ended up in there because, you know, I mean, I think the show's beautiful. But I think, you know, we didn't have a lot of those moments because, you know, I'm at a point where I kind of know how these things work. But you know, somebody at home may not, so I was kind of glad that it happened, to be honest.

Bob: Well, for a guy like me, what it gave me permission to realize is like, and it may not go well for you, but you can immediately fix it. You didn't hear the "Holy crap. I've ruined an heirloom." It was like, "Oh, I've just got to get," you just went right to, "Oh, I just need to do this."

Which I really appreciated because I think you made us understand why you're the laundry guy but also you were just like, "I know what I know. And I can fix this." But it comes off to me like you were saying that to us, "Oh, I need to get this in water." Like you had the presence of mind to tell us that.

Patric: Well, I just said it because it had to go. Like, you know, I mean, I guess I was so in the filming moment. Maybe I don't even know who I said it to. But it was just like it has to go right now because I mean, it's funny my parents, both obviously watched it, thank goodness. Right?

And they both were like, "We could tell you were terrified." You know, I mean, they saw it, and they saw the look. I mean, and it's funny, because once I got it in water, and I got it calmed down, you know, I mean, I would have dipped into the cleaning vodka if it hadn't been midday. I was so stressed out.

Bob: I'm going to be looking for that episode when you do do that. I'm just letting you know. So, you've been doing this now. You've been filming this, what, for the last four months?

Patric: Yes, yes.

Bob: And, you know, people are going to be finding out about it, they're going to be coming to the Mall of America. And what do you think that's going to mean for your brand? Could you have thought of something like this when you started?

Patric: No. I started Laundry Camp because, you know, people needed to know how to do laundry. And to be honest, I needed to sell laundry products. So it seemed like a good thing to do.

And, you know, that was why I started and that was just all it was going to be. And, you know, I mean, I've always had sort of my philosophy about laundry. But you know, there's a practical side that people need to do it, and I need to sell stuff. So, I never would have guessed that, you know, I would have a book and a TV show. And I would have even been less likely to guess that they both come out the same week.

You know, so it's kind of a wild ride, but it's amazing. I don't know what's going to happen. You know, I hope that everybody becomes a believer. And you know, they start using soap and horsehair brushes. And, you know, I hope that...

Bob: And Laundry Flakes from you, let's be honest?

Patric: Right. I mean, I hope that they... Especially Laundry Flakes because you can't get them anywhere else. And, you know, I hope that they just kind of find the fun in doing their laundry. You know, I mean, something I love to say, and I've said it too many times. But it's so much what I believe, you know, when I was a kid, when you watched like sitcoms, or shows, or whatever, you would always see a parent, primarily a mom, but you know, be like, "Oh, I've got to make dinner for the kids," like it was some chore.

And now, you know, there's the Food Network, and the Cooking Channel, and magazines, and William Sonoma, and books. Cookbooks are the number one selling book category. There's all this thing devoted to cooking. And the only thing that happened is when Marion Cunningham put the chicken in the oven in 1970, it was like, "Oh, I have to make dinner for the kids." And when Ina Garten puts the chicken in the oven, she's like, "I get to cook for Jeffrey."

She put it into the oven the exact same way. It's just that she changed her mind. And she decided, "I like putting the chicken in the oven." Well, I want people to like putting their clothes in the washing machine. Because you have to do it. So you might as well have fun.

Bob: Except you don't want me to put it in the washing machine.

Patric: Oh, no you put...

Bob: Let's be honest. I'm not supposed to put it in there like as much as I do. Right?

Patric: No, no, no.

Bob: Isn't that one of the most common things you say?

Patric: Like less often, but when you have to, I want you to throw it in the washing machine. I mean, yes, I know that you love really bright colored shirts and I want you to put them in the washing machine.

Bob: I toned it down for you today.

Patric: Well, you know, but I know you have this, you know, cool side and you like to wear these really bright shirts. And I want you to put them all in the washing machine.

Bob: Oh my gosh, that would take a lot, you know how much those shirts cost?

Patric: Yes, I do and that's the reason. And I believe that it's okay. Because, yes...

Bob: And my husband's not there to iron my shirt for me. I have to do that myself. You know, I was in clothes for an awful long time. And I did wash my own shirts and iron them with the... Should you use Niagra spray starch or no?

Patric: I love spray starch.

Bob: I love spray starch.

Patric: Oh, it's so great. I love...

Bob: The finish is just ... But I guess starch is bad when you send it to the cleaners, right? That it can break down the fibers or something?

Patric: Yes, because they do it wet. You know, the shirt is soaking wet with starch and they heat it with a hot iron to dry it. And it's just way too aggressive. And you also shouldn't store with starch. So like your shirts that you're wearing all the time. It's no big deal because you keep washing it out. But like you know the Christmas tablecloth, when you go to put it away you shouldn't starch it because you don't want to store something with starch in it.

Bob: Okay, okay, I know you are the Laundry Evangelist. So how did you come up with that concept? How did you go from vintage to evangelist? That's a very supercharged word.

Patric: Well, you know, I wanted people to believe, so I had to come up with a word that made them believe. I started with vintage and actually, I carried laundry product in my vintage store because people already have this aversion to dry cleaning. And you know, young people are the ones at the time. Now everybody loves vintage.

But when I opened the store, it was primarily young people that were attracted to vintage. And they would tell me, "Well, I don't want to buy that, because I don't want to take it to the dry cleaner." So I started carrying laundry product strictly as a means to sell vintage, because I thought, "Well, you'll buy that, you know, 1960s dress from me if I can help you wash it at home and you won't be afraid to wash it." And so I started carrying laundry product for that reason.

Well, then people started finding out, "There's this guy, who will tell you how to wash your, you know, your husband's suits, you should go see him." And so all these people started coming and buying the laundry product. And, you know, that was kind of how it all started. I mean, it was just, and then it's funny, at some point in time, it all started and I kind of realized, you know, nobody else is doing this. So I think that also kind of became a thing.

Bob: Yes, and I don't think anybody else will be able to take that title from you in the meantime.

We're going to continue in just a minute, but I want to talk about our sponsor, SalesRX. (Break).

And we're back talking clothes with Patric Richardson, whose new book, "Laundry Love," just came out, in addition to his "Laundry Guy" TV show on Discovery+ and HGTV. So I have to ask you, do men and women want different things from their clothes?

Patric: Absolutely. It's funny, they want to approach them differently. Like, you know, women want to like baby them, you know, they want to be like, "Well, I can't put my cashmere sweater in the washing machine because, you know, I want to hand wash it, and I want to whatever." And men generally are like, "I can't put my cashmere sweater in the washing machine because I don't know what to do and I don't want to ruin it." So it's, you know, great because...

Bob: I can validate that, by the way. Yes, there's a lot that just stops us. Right?

Patric: Right. It's just, you know, like, I have guys who are afraid to put their suits in the washing machine. And I actually had one really good customer very early on, he came to my very first Laundry Camp, and he wouldn't put his suits in the washing machine.

And I said, "I'll make a deal with you if you'll tell all of your..." He worked in a law firm. I said, "If you'll tell all your friends to come to Laundry Camp, I will come to your house, and we will do it." And so I drove to his house, you know, we take the mesh bag, we stuffed the jacket in, we stuffed the pants in, and they were very, very expensive suits. And he was panicked. And he said, "Well, let's just do one." And I said, "No, we're going to do a whole load. We're not going to do one."

So we stuffed them all in and we toss them all in the washer. And they came out, we hang them up, and we steam them to dry. And he was like, "Oh, that's it?" And I was like, "Yes, that's it. It's not really that hard. It's easy." And then, you know, his wife was like, "Oh, I would have never done that. I would have hand-washed them." And I was just like, there's the difference between the way men and women approach their clothes. But you know, it's easy. Once it's easy it's easy for everybody.

Bob: Well, another thing that you do on your show is you, out of nowhere, you had a bunch of potatoes. "Let's make candy." I was like, "This is interesting, Patric." And are those family recipes? Are those things that you like, started to make a candy store, instead say I can do it in vintage?

Patric: No, it's funny. Do you want to know really how that happened? It's actually kind of funny. We wanted to come up with something to tie back to starch. And I knew that my great-grandmother used to pull the starch out of potatoes to use as starch on her clothes. And potato candy is like a common thing back where I grew up. And I really wanted to infuse kind of my Eastern Kentucky sort of heritage into the episodes.

Like, there's another episode where I'm making Mint Julep. You know, and I kind of wanted to bring a little bit of me, because I wanted the stories like, you know, when we're talking about the jacket, or the quilt, that story, I want that to be about the other person, you know, that's not really about me, that's about del Esté and her beautiful, you know, quilt.

So I wanted to put a little of me in it. And so we wanted to do these little segments. And some of them are practical like you'll learn how to fold a fitted sheet. But you know, and even in that one, you learn something about me, that I like to scent my sheets with peppermint, but I wanted you to kind of get to know me. So we did those little segments, just so you can kind of figure me out a little bit maybe.

Bob: Well, we certainly do. And I think that's what you exude, which is this sense of authenticity. I can't tell you how many people, you know, you'll see a LinkedIn thing, Five Ways to be Authentic. And I was like, really? Is that really what we've come down to like, how do I be myself? Just be yourself. I don't know. So, you know, as a businessman, what do you think one of the best investments you ever made was?

Patric: There's been a few. One of them was a computer system that would track everything so that I could free up my time. You know, like a shipping system. You know, I mean, and actually, you in one of your Sunday Morning Chats said you need to learn how to use your register.

And I actually did it while, during the pandemic, I spent the time learning every single thing about my cash register so that I would know how everything worked so that I could use it better. But, and then I put a shipping system with that. So that was a great one. And then, you know, my staff, I mean, I'm not afraid to pay my staff, like...

Bob: Tell us about that.

Patric: Well, you know what? Kind of like your really gorgeous shirts that you said are very expensive. They're expensive because they're fabulous. Well, it's the same, it's the truth with my staff. You know, I mean, if I wanted to hire at minimum wage, I'd get minimum wage. I mean, you know, I worked at Neiman Marcus, and I was like, "This is why you should buy a $4,000," in 1999, "This is why you should buy a $4,000 Oxford suit because it's the best."

And, you know, with my staff, they're the best. And one of the reasons I was able to film my show is because I was able to literally find out four days before I was going to film that I was going to start filming and that I was going to be gone for a whole month. And I pretty much got in the car and went to film. Because I knew that my team was phenomenal and that they would run the store, and I didn't worry about it.

And the truth of the matter is, I didn't worry about it, you know. I want to train them to get them better, but not so much because I don't think they're not fantastic. But you know, we can all get better. I mean, I can learn not to make, you know, color run on the back of a patch of a jacket. And everybody can learn more skills. I mean, they can get better. And, but my best investment, no question, my team.

Bob: You know, that's great, Patric. The name of the podcast is tell me something good about retail. And a lot of times I'll ask people, and they'll have something florid, you know, tell me about... And to me what you just said is it.

Because it really is about working with other people, selling is nothing more than the transference of feeling. As those of you who've heard me before, and seen me, and everything else, that I feel great about something, it's easy for me to sell it to somebody else. And I think all of us who are here with you, Patric, just realize you have such a way of feeling about laundry, it's like, well, I guess I could try that. I guess I will try that. I may have to ask you to come to my house and put my suits in the washer.

Patric: You'll be all right, it's easy.

Bob: That's just a hard one.

Patric: I mean, I think you would be more willing to toss your suits in than, you know, some of those shirts, which I'm guessing are Cavalli. Not Paul.

Bob: Oh, I have a Cavalli.

Patric: They have that look.

Bob: I have a Cavalli.

Patric: They have that ....

Bob: Robert Graham, I've got a...

Patric: Yes, they kind of have that look.

Bob: As always Cavalli is really thin, which is what worries me because that's what rips or that... Look at you.

Patric: You'll be just fine. Like I wouldn't even slow down with that.

Bob: That is so good.

Patric: I would, straight in.

Bob: That is so good. Well, I have two other questions for you, but jam into your time today. So what would you recommend like the first thing if I bought something from a vintage store? What would be the first thing I should do? Should I wash it? Should I read the care instructions? Should I have it...well, you probably won't say dry clean, but what would you suggest?

Patric: Well, it depends on the store. I mean, you know, the thing is, if you'd bought vintage from me, it was all already washed. Because, you know, I did it. But yes, otherwise you should wash it. As far as read the care instructions or dry cleaning, I have a great tip for reading the care instructions.

If you buy it and it says like, "Hand-wash cold, or dry flat, or dry clean only, or whatever," smooth it out on your kitchen counter and like smooth it out and get it really smooth and flat. And then reach into the junk drawer, get out the scissors and just cut the tag out. Because then it doesn't say that anymore. And you can do whatever you want. Because it's totally safe to wash.

Bob: So what is that? That's a created by liability things, you're just afraid someone's going to return it and say, "Oh, it puckered?"

Patric: Well, you're a retail guy. Imagine that you have 50 different items. You don't want to make tags that says machine wash warm, machine wash cold machine wash hot, dry flat, whatever. So dry clean only is always safe because dry cleaners often wash. You know, dry cleaning is not dry. It's a liquid process. You know, they just tumble it in petroleum rather than tumbling it in water. It's still wet. So it's a liquid process.

It's just that dry cleaners are taught all of the things that I will teach you in the book. You know, and then you can do it. I mean, what is more pure than water? You know, and like, I think, don't you live in upstate New York?

Bob: I do.

Patric: There's like sheep, and goats, and things around you. I mean, when it rains, does the farmer run out there and grab them and stick them in the barn so it's dry, and then when they're filthy, he's like, well, "Sheep, we've got to go to the dry cleaner." No, they stand out there in the rain and they get wet and they're just fine.

Bob: I just pictured this guy with a bunch of sheep go in the dry cleaner. Nobody's back on Tuesday? No starch?

Patric: Exactly, right. Fluff and Fold, right?

Bob: Yes, we don't think about that, though. That is so funny. Well, listen, you've been a joy to have on my show, what would you tell a friend looking to go into retail?

Patric: First of all, I would say for the first couple of years, you're going to panic. But then you're just going to, like, fall in love with it so much that you can, even on like, your worst day, it's still better than your best day was before because you're happy.

And if you surround yourself with people that make you happy, which is your employees, and your customers, you know, something else, I told you, I'm a huge fan. And you know, I'm kind of starstruck. But something you've said more than once is to like, open your heart to people.

And if you get your team to open your heart, if they open their heart, then customers come in. And, like, I mean, I just had a customer come in today who bought 12 books. And he waited to buy them from me because he wanted to get them from me and not from Amazon. And he wanted me to sign them all, you know, because he's going to give them away at Easter. And he's like, you know, I just want to support you.

And if somebody says that to you, I mean, you'll go to the end of the earth for them. But at the end of the day, you go home, and you're like, you know what, these people are really happy because of something I did. So if you ask, if somebody asked me to go into retail, I would say open your eyes so you're not blind to...that, you know, it's some sort of fun story like "Romy and Michele." But, you should absolutely do it because it's life-changing.

Bob: That's a great way to think of it, Patric. You know, I'm actually writing a blog right now, and I'm talking about the joy for me when I get to work on retail sales floor is I feel like when I get it right, when I get you to trust me, it's like you see this little boy or girl's face kind of light up.

And it's kind of like, "Oh, you saw me, or there's possibilities." You see them like awaken. And I think that's what we feel when we see your series as well. It's like, "Oh, what's going to happen? What's he going to do?" Because it's always this certainty and that calmness, and that's what I really appreciate.

So what's ahead for you in the next few months? Do you have things all planned out? Or are you going to go on a major speaking...? Well, probably not. But, you know, are you going to be in the store? Can people find you there?

Patric: I'm in the store all the time. You know, I mean, I can't wait to come to the store. We don't open right now till 11. I still get here at 9:00, just because I like to be here. So yes, right now people can come in the store, they can see me and they can ask laundry questions, and I'll answer them.

I think my staff is probably better at answering them than I am. But either way, somebody will answer them and, you know, they can just kind of come and hang out. Because it's a fun place to be. And when they're here they can, you know, go ride a roller coaster because it's just right outside.

Bob: And then if you get some stains on it, come up to you and get the Laundry Flake.

Patric: Exactly. We've got you covered.

Bob: I love that, my friend. Maybe you should start carrying ketchup and mustard as well.

Patric: Yes, exactly.

Bob: Then you can just like help it along a little. Like, "Oh, make sure you get a hot dog on the way out."

Patric: If I could just do a hot dog cart on the other side, maybe that's my next business opportunity.

Bob: See, always thinking, always thinking. Well, it's been a pleasure to have you today, Patric, and great success with the book, and with the show. And we'll be following on the other side and laughing along with you. So thanks for joining me.

Patric: Well, thank you so much. And thanks for everything I've learned from you because I really appreciate it.

Bob: Thank you, Patric! 

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