Minnesota nice, business edition: Competitor aids fire-ravaged rival

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A commercial laundry in Cloquet that suffered serious damage in a fire last month is getting help from an unlikely source: its main competitor.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that a blaze destroyed Wood City Laundry on Feb. 21, claiming the building, commercial laundering equipment, and the laundry's inventory of rugs, mops, linens, and uniforms. The Facebook page for the Cloquet Fire Department said firefighters battled the blaze for six hours in the midst of a howling snowstorm.

“Twenty-five years’ worth of work was reduced to a burning pile of rubble,” owner Gary Tyman said.

He called the general manager of AmeriPride Linen & Apparel Service, a commercial laundry chain in Duluth whom he had met earlier when the national company expressed interest in buying the Wood City Laundry. The newspaper story said that General Manager Dave Hardy had ended that meeting with an offer to "let him know if he could ever be of service."

“I gave Dave a call. I told him, we have no equipment, no building and no inventory,” Tyman said.

A spokesman for AmeriPride said the business makes a practice of reaching out to competitors. AmeriPride in Duluth provided the Tymans with a couple of trucks and drivers, inventory of clean linens and continued help laundering the items it collects from its customers.

The Ameripride office in Duluth has had its own experience rebuilding after a fire. Northland's News Center reported that a half million dollar fire struck the company's office and laundry in August of 2010, damaging the building, roof and the contents. Six delivery trucks were pulled from the smoldering structure.

Hardy said his heart went out to Tyman.

“It’s a very unfortunate situation," Hardy said. "He spent his whole life building that business.”

Wood City Laundry employs four people full-time, including Tyman and his wife Cindy, and eight more on a part-time basis. AmeriPride employs 91 people at its facilities in Duluth, Hibbing and Bemidji.

“For a big company like that to work so hard to meet our needs is really something. They’ve bent over backwards for us,” Cindy Tyman said.

Tyman said Wood City hasn’t lost any of its 300 clients as a result of the fire. The company hopes to rebuild after it settles up with its business insurance.

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