Coyne was begun in Syracuse, New York in 1929 by an energetic young Irishman by the name of J. Stanley Coyne. While working in a gas service station on Syracuse's south side, not far from where Coyne's Syracuse plant and corporate headquarters now sit, J. Stanley pondered the thought about establishing a regular pickup and delivery service for shop towels and garments. He was prompted by his own experience of difficulty in getting greasy hands clean and work clothes laundered. Thus, the first shop towels were introduced to the Syracuse market.
After canvassing industrial plants in the area, he decided that an overall cleaning service was needed. So in his spare time, he began picking up dirty work clothes, having them cleaned by a local laundry, and returning clean garments to companies all over Syracuse. Filled with enthusiasm as his fledgling business began to take off, he would have no way of knowing what lay ahead. America and the world were about to plunge into a series of economic tribulations that would leave many businesses bankrupt and millions of people desperate for work.
Coyne got its start during the most difficult of times. In the fall of 1929, the stock market crash sent the world tumbling into the Great Depression. Fortunes were lost and many of America's most revered companies vanished seemingly overnight. In 1931, as the country struggled to recover, one of the most devastating droughts ever recorded in the U.S. gripped the Midwest and southern plains and lasted nearly a decade.
By 1934, the drought covered more than 75 percent of the nation, affecting 27 states severely and devastating the country's food supply. By the time the drought ended in 1939, more than 150 million acres of formerly cultivated land was destroyed. 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor sent America into World War II, putting the nation's faltering recovery on hold. The war effort consumed valuable resources and decimated the workforce.
And yet it was the war that propelled J. Stanley's young business to growth beyond his expectations. It was fortuitous that Syracuse was home to a large number of manufacturers in diverse industries. Almost immediately, these companies began undertaking defense work. Their plants began operating at maximum capacity building everything from heavy guns for ships to landmines to tanks to meet the demands of the war effort. All of the manufacturing required a steady supply of clean shop towels, gloves, aprons and coveralls, and Coyne was there to provide them around the clock.
J. Stanley's service was considered so important to the war effort that although he was found fit for duty, the draft board refused to let him serve because they considered the work he was doing to be essential to national defense. And if the J. Stanley's first years in business were not difficult enough to survive, his burgeoning processing plant in Syracuse burned in 1942. In typical fashion, it was quickly rebuilt and customers never missed a delivery.
Although clearly not the environment in which to start a new business venture, J. Stanley Coyne's new company, Coyne Service and Supply enjoyed robust growth. The lessons learned have formed the foundation for the values that continue to guide the company today: hard work, building relationships with your customers, treating them fairly, and providing services that exceeded the customer's expectations in every way.
Despite unbelievable hardships and challenges, Coyne continued to grow and expand to nearby cities. By the early 1960s, Coyne Industrial Laundries, as it was known at that time, owned and operated commercial laundry plants in Syracuse, Binghamton, Buffalo, Elmira, Massena, Schenectady, in Pennsylvania at Dubois, Erie, Scranton, Warren and York and in New England at Providence, R.I., Burlington, Vt., Boston, Westfield and New Bedford, Mass. Coyne also owned a garment manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico that supplied its growing business with uniforms, shop towels and other textile items.
By the end of the 1970s, the company that began with one small washing machine and the determination of one young man had become a major force in the uniform rental industry. By 1978, Coyne operated 10 plants and 10 service terminals serving customers from Cleveland and Pittsburgh east to Boston and from Maine south through the District of Columbia. Some 200 blue and yellow trucks could be seen across the northeast daily delivering uniforms, shop towels, dust mops, floor mats and other items industry needed as the country continued its expansion.
The annual payroll then amounted to $10 million and the company generated approximately $50 million in revenues. Throughout this period, Coyne distinguished itself as a leader in the uniform rental industry, not only in size, but because of the sheer number of inventions and innovations it introduced, many of which remain standards in the industry today. For example, Coyne was one of the first companies in America to rent garments rather than sell them outright or clean others' goods.
Coyne also perfected the shop towel as we know it today. In the early 1930s, cotton and other fabrics were scarce due to the war. Industry used whatever rags it could find to wipe grease and oil from hands, tools, and machinery. Coyne cleaned these rags, but soon realized that there must be a better way. Coyne introduced the concept of renting and cleaning cotton wipers that were uniform in size and shape, and were easier, safer and more efficient to use.
Coyne was a leader in computerizing its accounting and routing system, increasing its efficiency, increasing the accuracy of its invoices and reducing costs to its customers. Coyne is believed to be the first commercial laundry in the U.S. in the early 1960s to provide and process garments to standards higher than those established by the U.S. Air force for Class IV clean rooms.
In 1982, J. Stanley's son, Thomas M. (Tommy) Coyne, was named president of the company, ushering in a new era for the company and for the entire industry. Under Tommy's leadership, Coyne began an aggressive growth strategy that would more than triple the size of the company. One of his first steps was to rename the company Coyne Textile Services (CTS) and design a new logo to better reflect the changing nature of the company and the industry. The new name and logo embodied the growing emphasis he was placing on high technology throughout the company and on Coyne's growth in the textile manufacturing business.
Continuing the tradition of leading the industry rather than following, Tommy set about introducing new technologies for more efficient operations and better cleaning processes. For example, Coyne was the first uniform rental company to successfully adapt bar code technology to fabrics that must be washed many times in industrial washing machines. Challenges included developing a label adhesive that would stand up to the strong detergents and high heat found in the industrial cleaning process. Completely new methods were required to prevent the bar code imprint from washing or becoming unreadable to high-speed scanning equipment.
Coyne's success has resulted in the industry's most accurate processing system, which dramatically increases accuracy and allows Coyne's customers to know the exact location, condition, and history of each rental item.
Even before bar code scanning had been perfected, Coyne was intent on developing radio frequency (RF) technology that would eliminate the need to scan each item. This new technology would allow a single device to count up to 6,000 items per hour, resulting in another vast improvement in accuracy, accountability and cost savings for Coyne customers.
Tommy also spearheaded the development of new environmentally-friendly cleaning technologies. "I don't think there is anything as important as protecting the environment for all of us," says Tommy. This concept is nothing new for Coyne. From its beginning, Coyne has promoted environmentally friendly products that can be cleaned and reused many, many times rather than being used once and thrown away.
Coyne was a leader in sound environmental practices long before people thought much about protecting the environment and decades before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) established regulations promoting reuse and recycle programs.
Today, Coyne Textile Services is the industry leader in the protection of the environment and limiting long-term liability for ourselves and our customers. In 2003 alone, Coyne recovered and recycled over 900,000 gallons of hazardous residuals from its processing facilities into beneficial reuse as a secondary fuel. Since Coyne's energy reuse program began, it has kept more than 10,000,000 gallons of hazardous waste from entering the environment through this program.
While researching and developing these new environmentally sound cleaning solutions, Tommy learned that many companies were trying to find a better solution to the way they were absorbing oils and solvents used in the manufacturing process. They were struggling with the increasing cost of purchasing disposable absorbent materials and clay pellets, and were becoming wary of dumping these oil-laden materials in landfills where they might pollute the environment.
From his work with the USEPA, Tommy knew that companies had good reason to be worried. He set about developing a new line of absorbent products that he named the Reusable Absorbent System (RAS). His concept combined the use of various highly absorbent cotton towels, socks and mats with Coyne's unique cleaning process that removed dangerous oils and solvents.
The resultant system was a huge win for Coyne customers. Their housekeeping costs were reduced, worker comfort and safety was increased, customers saw a reduction in the amount of hazardous waste they were required to report, and they were protected from potential long-term liability associated with the sending pollutants to landfills. More importantly, they were taking steps to protect and improve the environment.
Coyne actively participates in the regulatory process at the federal, state, and local levels and was recently invited to testify at a USEPA hearing on behalf of the industry in support of this new regulation. Coyne is also recognized as one of the companies achieving 100% participation in meeting the objectives of LaundryESP. LaundryESP is an Environmental Stewardship Program established in conjunction with USEPA and the laundry industry to further reduce water and energy use and pollutant discharges to the environment.
Under Tommy's steady guidance the company broadened its scope of services in a diverse number of industries including automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical, petrochemical, food processing, printing, chemical, steel manufacturing, utility and transportation.
As the industry moved continually away from traditional manufacturing toward more technical, scientific and service industries, he transformed the company from cleaning heavy soil items to one providing its customers with image apparel.
Companies in the pharmaceutical, high-tech and other light-soil industries are increasingly renting or purchasing garments such as lab coats, dress shirts, slacks, ties, polo shirts, and outdoor wear. These companies are using uniforms and a full range of logo apparel to help their employees look professional and to tie into their marketing plans to build brand identity with their customers.
One area of high growth for Coyne has been protective apparel. Throughout Coyne's history, a focus on worker safety has helped Coyne develop many features that are still in use today.
Coyne was the first company to incorporate snaps on uniforms instead of buttons or zippers that could scratch or get caught in equipment. Other innovations like safety pockets keep workers safe.
Over a decade ago, Coyne recognized the need for more specialized protective garments for the chemical, molten metals, and electrical industries. Virtually all protective garments on the market at that time were treated with flame retardant chemicals. Many of these chemicals were known to cause health problems. Additionally, these garments were uncomfortably bulky and hot to work in.
Tommy knew there had to be a better way. After considerable investment in research and development, Coyne now offers unique fabrics that are light weight, breathable and don't use any chemical treatments (inherently flame resistant). This is another example of the innovative thinking and willingness to take a risk that has helped Coyne to survive and grow year after year despite economic and competitive challenges.
Coyne's success is shared with communities where it operates. Both J. Stanley and Tommy shared a deep belief that with success comes the responsibility to help those less fortunate. Coyne has provided millions of dollars to educational facilities, churches, hospitals, community organizations and individuals in desperate need of assistance. Some of the organizations in Syracuse and Onondaga Country, that have received funding from Coyne include:
- Syracuse University
- Lemoyne College
- Everon Museum
- Crouse Irving Hospital
- Boy Scouts of America
- Onondaga Community College
- Rescue Mission
- Catholic Diocese
Two recent commitments include the Kidney Foundation where Coyne provided funding for new mobile screening vehicles. These high-tech vehicles enter communities and provide free testing for kidney disease, high blood pressure and other highly preventable diseases. Another is Francis House, a place where the terminally ill who may be without family or money can receive care and loving support. "Nothing I have done has been so important to me or given me so much pleasure as helping to build this special place," says Tommy. Francis House is truly a labor of love. Building one is named after Coyne's founder, J. Stanley Coyne. Building two, at the insistence of Sister Kathleen Osbelt who was the driving force behind the project, was named for Tommy Coyne.
Technological advancements and a steadfast commitment to customer service have contributed to Coyne's sucess. Today, Coyne operates 31 locations serving customers in 24 states through its national service alliance.