Collars & Cuffs
Dohn Nagy runs a successful business supplying replacement shirt collars and cuffs to drycleaners across Canada and the United States allowing them to offer an extra service to their customers. The idea came to him when he was forced to rethink his career.
In 1993, after forty years in menswear, the prospect of voluntary retirement loomed. At that time. he was working at Eatons, once the largest department store in Canada, as a human resources manager. Still in his fifties, Dohn thought he was too young to put his feet up and watch the game shows, and while Eatons went on to insolvency and closure, he considered how he could use his vast experience. By the time the redundancy packages were offered, he already had a plan. He had always wanted to start his own business but, like so many. needed to be given a push.
"You get wrapped up in the security blanket that a big firm provides. You think life will be too much of a struggle without a regular pay cheque coming in. When I left Eatons." he says "I made a list of 11 things I thought I could do and I am still on number one." Working most of his life in menswear, Dohn had noticed that a section of the business community liked to wear coloured shirts with white collars and cuffs, but the selection of such shirts on the market was poor.
Having held down a collar-and-tie job himself, he had also noticed that the collar and cuffs were the first parts to wear out. Favourite shirts were being thrown into the garbage simply because they had become slightly frayed, or bedraggled around the neck.
A collar and cuff replacement service was needed, and he remembered a time, long gone, when such items were available. As he says. "Extending the life of an expensive dress shirt makes financial sense, and getting a few more years wear out of a favourite shirt would seem like a good idea to most men."
Dohn Nagy visits a customer, Raman Talwar of Bridlewood Cleaners in Mississauga, Ontario.
So he spent several months researching the business. The first problem was finding suppliers, and setting up distributors and retail outlets. Initially he worked with suppliers in Hong Kong. Later a factory closer to home in Quebec won the contract and now makes cotton collars and cuffs to Dohns' specifications. The natural outlets for this new service were custom tailors and those drycleaners who did shirts, repairs and alterations.
On October 12 1994, the business made its first sale. Today countless drycleaners in Canada and the US display Dohns' blue and white poster advertising his replacement collars and cuffs service. "It gives drycleaners an edge to offer a specialist service, something the competition does not have." he says. "Customers can attach the collars and cuffs themselves, if they want and we supply the instructions." says Dohn. However, he explains that the main business is through drycleaners, laundries and specialist tailors.
The stock is all-white, all-cotton. with neck sizes from 14 to 20. Single and French cuffs are available and are matched to the neck size but if customers prefer, they can also order by cuff length.
"We ship the orders by post. Sample orders are available. We ship across Canada and into the United States everyday and we would be happy to supply European outlets." Dohn still keeps his list of things to do, and one day he may start on number two.