Perrysburg Township police officers are among the best dressed in the nation according to the North American Association of Uniform Manufacturers & Distributors (NAUMD). The Perrysburg Twp. police are one of five departments to top the list of the NAUMD’s annual Best Dressed Public Safety Competition, a program that calls attention to the important role uniforms play in law enforcement and public safety. The award celebrates the law enforcement departments, first responders, and uniform suppliers that go the extra mile to create versatile, functional, and stylish uniforms that represent public safety professionals.
Universal Unilink Member Superior Uniform Sales designed and delivered the award-winning uniforms, the third time Superior has earned the accolade with its clients. Toledo Metroparks Rangers won best dressed small department last year, with the Toledo Police Department taking the title in the large department division in 2006. The company competes against entries from major national uniform outfitters like Cintas and Aramark. Bill Darah, CEO of Superior Uniform Sales, remarked, “You’ve got the big national companies and they’re putting in five or six entries, then here comes Superior Uniform Sales, a small local company from Toledo winning two years in a row.” Bill contends that as a smaller company, Superior Uniform Sales is able to work very closely with each client to tailor the various details of uniforms to suit individual needs. “We’re more personal,” he said. “We can give better service than the larger national companies and we’ve been doing that for 35 years.”
A Tradition of Service
The roots of this family business reveal a history of customer service. Bill’s grandfather, Louis Darah, arrived in the Toledo, Ohio area from Syria in 1902. At that time there were tailor shops on almost every street corner. Louis Darah saw opportunity and started Eastern Dry Cleaners, a wholesale dry cleaning operation that serviced those shops along with the retail clientele. The family business expanded in 1938 with the founding of an industrial laundry across the street called Superior Overall Laundry Company, led by Bill’s uncle Paul Darah. Bill and his cousin Louis both learned the uniform business while working at the two family operations. During the recession in the early 80s, many businesses were struggling which motivated a large Superior Overall supplier to start a program that helped rental laundries open up new markets with direct sales. Bill says, “With the recession at hand, this was a good way for Superior Overall to increase sales in a new direction and compensate for decreasing revenues in our regular industrial laundry business. What’s more, we had family members within the corporate structure who had the ability to meet the challenges of the new uniform venture.” At first, the new division, known as Superior Textile Sales, operated out of the rental laundry facility. Bill saw direct sales as a natural extension of the rental laundry model. He says, “My philosophy is this: heavy soil customers rent, light soil customers buy. Even today, we don’t go into an automotive dealership trying to sell to the service department. They need to rent. But the front-end sales teams show interest in the upscale shirts and polos we provide. I have always seen several distinctions between rental laundry and direct sales.” In 1983, Superior Overall acquired Giha’s Uniforms, which was at that time the only other uniform store in Toledo. With a separate store location and a focus on uniform sales, the name of the business was changed to Superior Uniform Sales. Bill devoted all his time to the new business while his cousin Louis continued to work in direct sales and the laundry. “We brought all our years of experience from renting uniforms in the laundry business with us while the staff at Giha’s taught us the public safety business.” In 1992, Bill’s uncle and father sold the industrial laundry to a national chain and cousin Louis came over to work with Bill full-time. At 81, Louis continues to come in every day. Bill says, “We have employees that retire from here — many serving for multiple decades. Why do they stay? The industry gets in their blood. They enjoy the interaction and relationships with the customers.”
I Love My Job
That love for the industry may be an inherited trait as Bill’s daughters, Natalie and Alyssa, are the fourth generation of the Darah family to join the team. Natalie works in the office and performs clerical and purchasing duties while Alyssa works in Business Development. Alyssa says, “After living in several big cities overseas and in the US, I continually get asked why I came back to Toledo. I always say that it’s because I love what I do.” As the head of business development, Alyssa also oversees marketing and social media. Alyssa says that new business is acquired with a combination of new technology and old-school Sales 101 strategies. “I do my research using LinkedIn or by visiting websites of prospects to identify the point people. I’ll make customer visits to introduce myself and drop off my business card and catalogs. I also make it a point to attend networking events to identify potential leads in the community. As you know, the best source of leads is referrals. As part of our customer service with existing business, we inquire about friends or colleagues whom we may be able to help with our services. Leads are tracked at the weekly meetings of the five sales team members overseen by Eric McClain, Sales Manager for 26 years. Says Bill, “He knows the name of every police officer, deputy sheriff, and firefighter that walks in the door.” Mary Johnson, showroom supervisor for 28 years, oversees the inside sales team. “You’ve got to have good people, and we are so fortunate to have our mighty staff of 18.” Bill continues, “Every account is assigned an account executive. We have two dedicated inside sales people at the front counter, but everyone works the showroom at one time or another when volume or schedules demand it. When I look for outside sales people, I tell them that 75% of your time will be spent with existing accounts—taking orders, doing fittings, handling calls—and 25% percent of the time should be soliciting new accounts. That’s why it’s so important to have Alyssa here and dedicated to discovering new leads.” “55% of Superior’s business is public safety: police, fire, security, sheriff, and EMTs. The other 45% is anything that an employer would like to purchase for their employees — especially industrial, service, hospitality, and medical apparel.” “97% of our sales consists of groups. We are accustomed to B2B sales since we came from the laundry business. Even though we have a showroom, we are not geared towards selling to individuals. “The vast majority of showroom visitors are sent by their employers, and most of them come in with a requisition or purchase order stating what they are to receive. This is the result of continual customer education and relationship building.” Only a small part of the 18,000 square foot facility is showroom. The remaining areas consist of inventory with some space dedicated to a tailor shop and embroidery room. Says Bill, “We outsource screen printing and use many suppliers (such as Alphabroder and Tri-Mountain) to do some of the decorating. We decide on a case-by-case basis if the job will be decorated in-house or outsourced, and it’s nice to have that flexibility.”
It’s All In The Details
When it comes to award-winning work, Bill says it’s all about the details. “Public Safety is a very detail-oriented business. When selling a police uniform, if the emblem is just slightly crooked, or if the sergeant stripe is not put on just right, know that it’s coming back to you to be fixed.” Bill gives credit to Alyssa’s thorough work in coordinating the nominations and submitting entries for the best dressed competition. Judges review each department’s professional appearance and uniform diversity, paying close attention to detail and written standards. As many officers have specific assignments and patrol details, there are many factors to consider: Does the uniform fit the job and function? Is the appearance neat and do the garments fit properly? Most importantly, can the public immediately identify the wearer as a professional law enforcement officer? “It’s a lot of detailed work and Alyssa handles it well.” Says Bill, “Since she started working here she is two for two in helping us win the award.” “We implement all modifications to make the products from our suppliers stand out, whether it’s striping on pants or jacket sleeves, or adding stars and v-bars. Typically, the customer comes up with the design of the emblem or works with a marketing/graphic design company. It’s all about making the small details come together to create the desired image for our customers.” Bill concludes, “I do believe that in life and business there exists an 80/20 rule. Twenty percent of sales people are winning most of the orders. And that’s because they are out there getting the job done and providing great service all while being supported by a strong team. We believe that by combining those factors, along with listening and performing the job well, you create very rewarding relationships between you and your customers.”