New turn on old coats

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 7, 2002

Wayne Vardaman Jr. worked for a local insurance firm, and he made a good living. But he dreamed of one day being his own boss. His wife, Kim, saw how much the dream meant to him and told him to go for it, told him she believed in him.

Three years ago come April, the Vardamans put it all on the line and took the plunge. They bought Selma Steam Cleaners and Laundry. Since then, Wayne has set about learning the dry cleaning business with all the enthusiasm and determination that he once poured into mastering the complexities of variable annuities and capital gains tax and 401(k) plans.

Wayne’s father is executive director of the Selma-Dallas County Economic Development Authority, so maybe it’s in the genes.

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Wayne Jr. travels to dry cleaning conventions to learn about things like spot removal. He subscribes to magazines about the dry cleaning business and reads them cover to cover.

Business has been good. Selma Steam is one of the city’s oldest establishments. It’s been at the same Selma Avenue location since 1916 and in continuous operation since at least 1905.

Wayne is proud of the customer service his employees provide. They call most of the customers who come in by name, even down to remembering which ones prefer their shirts starched and which ones don’t.

If the story stopped there it would be encouraging enough. A young couple chasing their piece of the American dream by providing a service to the community and meaningful employment for 16 people. Businesses such as Selma Steam provide the momentum that make Selma’s economy go.

But the Vardamans have taken it a step further.

Grateful to their customers and the community they serve, the Vardamans want to do something in return. Something besides just providing good customer service.

Says Kim, &uot;I think both of us had parents who instilled in us the importance of giving back to the community.&uot;

In conjunction with the local office of the state Department of Human Resources, the Vardamans have organized a Coats for Kids project. Bring your old coats and drop them off at Selma Steam, and they’ll clean them, sew on any buttons that might be missing, and turn them over to DHR to be distributed where they’re most needed. The philsophy is that no child should be without a coat with cold weather coming on.

It’s the first time the Vardamans have attempted something like this, and they’re not sure what to expect.

Bring your old coats (or a new one, if you prefer), any size, and drop it off at Selma Steam, 1300 Selma Ave., between now and Dec. 31. They’ll clean ’em and send ’em on to DHR, and they’ll see that the kids get ’em. It’s as simple as that.

If you’ve got any questions, you can call Wayne at the office at 875-7278.