Learning a Lesson from Pizza-making Robots

This column will be a little different from all our past times together. First, I would like to thank the folks at the Southwest Drycleaners Association’s (SDA) Showcase in Dallas for this year’s event. I would also send a special thanks to Amin Bata, the conference chairman. I thoroughly enjoyed the folks I met and was honored to be one of the speakers presenting, allowing me to introduce dry cleaners from all over to the “Eight Drivers of Value.”

Many who know me know I have always had several business interests going at once. In the past two years, I have sold two of these. One was our Christmas Tree farm which we operated for 28 years. I was getting too old for the work it took, especially for my wife. Although the Christmas tree farm was a gratifying venture in which we created many memories as a family over the years, I was also happy to sell it at a great price.

The second venture was our fire/water restoration operation, owned and managed by my daughter, Audra…which leads me to the rest of that story.

This past November, Audra, her husband, Jeff, my wife, and I partnered to open a large brewery with a pizza kitchen in a fast-growing community near Omaha, NE. The dry cleaning industry has been very good to us during the past 31 years. I would have never had that opportunity without the help of my in-laws, providing the means to buy our first operation. And it was my father-in-law who got started due to his father-in-law; therefore, in family tradition, we are paying it forward.

The brewery is now open and thriving, with twenty beer taps all brewed in-house, five mixed drinks on tap, one of which is an Old Fashioned named after my father (more about Charlie soon), and a fabulous pizza kitchen. All this in a building that seats 305 inside and many more outside; it’s amazing how this space has become a vibrant space filled with great beer, food, and ever-growing customers.

Now, why do I tell you this? Audra, Jeff, and I recently attended the Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, along with 12,000 of our closest pizza friends. The keynote speaker on the second day was a gentleman who spent six years with SpaceX, and years prior for an EV car maker, engineering battery technology.

His new mission, with several other SpaceX engineers, has been to design a box truck full of robots that make pizzas, even when moving. The first time a human touches the product is to cut it. These robots made any combination of pizza toppings on the menu, all in four minutes. It was amazing.

I tell this story because it gave me a glimpse into what could be automated in the garment care industry. I believe we have only seen the beginning of automation for dry cleaners. I have heard all the reasons it can’t be done, but if these guys can figure out how to perfectly arrange pepperonis on a pizza, anything is possible.

By the way, Heavy Brewing is going great. I have been the behind-the-scenes business coach and am qualified to bus tables, wash dishes, and test the product. And trust me; I excel at product testing! I am incredibly excited to be part of this.

An Old Fashioned named after Charlie at Heavy Brewing In Omaha, Ne

So, now, about Charlie. March 4th, 2023, was a day that changed our household, as Charlie (my father), who was living in the Twin Cities, moved to Nebraska and into our home. My father is an incredible man, 98 years young, and a WWII veteran of the Navy. At age 21, he was the skipper of a small ship in the Philippines, Okinawa, and China. In retrospect, they grew up fast in that “Greatest Generation.”

Welcoming him into our home allows him to forge deeper connections with his five great-grandchildren, two of whom he had never met before. While adjustments were made to accommodate his arrival, including my relocation to the lower level for my office, the opportunity for shared experiences and the joy it brings to us far outweigh any inconveniences.

In closing, I am again grateful for this chance to deviate from our usual conversations and share these personal updates. The entrepreneurship journey continues to unfold, and as we explore new horizons, we must remain open to possibilities, embrace automation’s potential, and cherish the precious moments we create with our loved ones.

This article was originally published in National Clothesline

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