Staunton Steam Laundry is celebrating a big anniversary. Staunton calls it a model of entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to community - the laundry has been a family-owned business for 100 years and now employs more than 80 people.
Staunton Steam is not your corner laundromat. The company serves industrial and commercial customers in three states. Their primary business is uniform and linen service, from smocks for poultry-plant employees to sheets and towels for upscale resorts.
It may not look like a mom-and-pop business, but that's exactly how Staunton Steam Laundry got its start.
"It was a couple of horse-drawn carriages in 1912," said Staunton Steam Laundry CEO Lee Beam. "And now we have 11 routes that run about 7,000 to 8,000 miles a week up and down the valley."
The routes also run beyond the valley to Maryland and West Virginia. Close to 1,500 customers rely on Staunton Steam, which for a century has remained in the family.
"It's also my dad's 90th birthday and he's still here to celebrate with us. So that means a lot that his father started it and his children are continuing it," said Beam.
Tours of the 50,000-square-foot business are part of the 100th birthday party Thursday. Staunton says longevity is not the reason to celebrate.
Amanda Glover with Staunton Economic Development said, "The other thing about a locally owned company is that these folks actually give back so substantially to the community, either through their time or actually through financial donations."
The city says it tries to give back, creating a business-friendly climate by, for example, giving Staunton Steam a discount on sewer rates. Glover says it's worth the effort to support entrepreneurs.
"It's a great story to tell, not only for existing businesses but for people who are looking to start a business," said Glover. "If businesses in a certain locality can grow and thrive and last a hundred years and do well, that probably means that other businesses can do the same thing."
Thursday's anniversary event coincides with Virginia Business Appreciation Week. The century mark for Staunton Steam also falls during what Governor Bob McDonnell declared the year of the entrepreneur.