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Competitor buys Cloquet laundry ravaged by fire

Gary Tyman, owner of Wood City Laundry in Cloquet, carries a load of fresh carpets during a run in Duluth. After fire ravaged his facility in February, competitor AmeriPride stepped in to help. Now AmeriPride has purchased the business. (File / News Tribune)

Instead of folding in the wake of a Feb. 21 fire, Cloquet’s Wood City Laundry turned to a competitor in Duluth for help. And now that competitor, AmeriPride Linen & Apparel Service, has purchased the commercial laundry, making its owner, Gary Tyman, part of its own team.

“We’re really happy to have Gary on board so he can continue to nurture the customer relations he has worked so long to build,” said Ben Saukko, AmeriPride’s director of communications.

Tyman has been hired on a contract basis for the remainder of the year, and Saukko said it is the company’s hope that he chooses to remain with AmeriPride permanently.

Saukko declined to disclose the financial details of the deal, which closed at the end of March, marking the end of Wood City Laundry after 27 years of business.

Tyman said he found that he was underinsured after the fire, which destroyed his facility including all his laundering equipment and much of his inventory. He lacked sufficient coverage to rebuild. But Tyman said AmeriPride did not seek to exploit the situation.

“I was negotiating from a position of humility and weakness, but they made me a better offer than they ever had before,” said Tyman, who said the company had expressed an interest in acquiring his business before the fire as well.

Saukko said AmeriPride stepped in to provide laundering services to Wood City at Tyman’s request in the aftermath of the fire. He explained that the company makes a practice of reaching out to others in the industry during periods of adversity, knowing it may need contingency help itself one day.

“One of the jobs of our regional general managers is to build relationships with other operators and competitors to ensure business continuity in crisis situations,” he said.