Kristin Dempsey, Vice President, Dempsey Uniform

Dempsey Uniform Linen

Can you please share the history of Dempsey Uniform with our readers. Who was the entrepreneur/visionary behind the company?

We began in 1959 and this month is Dempsey’s 60th anniversary! We’ll be celebrating at all of our locations, including Clifton, with a BBQ luncheon. My father and uncle were the co-founders of Dempsey Uniform & Linen. Although PJ and I work very hard and have grown the company significantly over the past 20 years, we recognize the bravery and determination of our entrepreneurial founders. They started with nothing. My father Pat was the engineer who built the plant and my uncle Dick was the salesman who brought in the customers.

Kristin Dempsey, Vice President, Dempsey Uniform
Kristin Dempsey, Vice President, Dempsey Uniform

As a supplier to the restaurant industry, we see that spirit in many of our customers. We truly admire the entrepreneur who takes that first step on his own – without a customer base, without a name brand, without a proven team – and opens a new restaurant. I feel like we’ve been a great partner to many of them as we helped them through the bumpy road of a new opening.

What makes the Dempsey product line different from other linen
services in the marketplace?

First, we are a family business with active family ownership. Second, we have leveraged technology to control our customers’ costs and increase our level of service. The result is a consistency of product quality and delivery service that other companies have not been able to provide. Our service runs seamlessly in the background so our restaurant customers can focus on other parts of their business.

As life has become less formal, table linen has come under attack. Can a restaurant really look a customer in the eye and charge “$30” plus for an entree without a linen on the table?

Start to search “restaurant noise” and it will auto-fill with a bunch of terms. The increasing popularity of minimalist design and industrial architecture has made restaurants noisier. Tablecloths can absorb noise and make a restaurant more enjoyable for your customers. Plus, they present a clean, sanitary image. Watch how many patrons put their flatware on their plates instead of the bare table and you’ll know that matters. 

Dempsey has built a dynamic portfolio in the DC restaurant community. How did you accomplish that?

We entered the DC market with the acquisition of some restaurant business from a national linen supply company. Most of the customers we acquired were national restaurant chains, which were not a good fit for Dempsey. Corporate purchasing departments did not seem to value the quality and inventory control systems we brought to their sites. So, we’ve replaced all of that national restaurant chain business with independent restaurants or restaurant groups and, we believe, we’ve helped make them more competitive. Our biggest competitor is a nationwide chain so we understand the independent vs. chain dynamic. We’re so proud to see our local customers succeed and grow.

What is the opportunity that you see for Dempsey in Metro NYC?

Metro NYC is the pinnacle of fine dining. That’s a market where we shine. Our fine dining customers value the consistently high quality table linens we supply. They appreciate the responsiveness of our tenured service team. They see us as a partner who helps control their linen costs with transparent billing and advanced inventory control systems. The restaurant community, even in our metro markets, is smaller than people might assume so we’ve grown primarily through word-of-mouth. We’re excited to build a strong reputation and grow the same way in NYC.

How did the WH deal come together?

My father and the previous owner of WH Linen, Bill Hermans, were both engineers. They knew each other through our industry association, TRSA, and we often discussed the latest technologies and equipment for industrial laundries. They had even visited each other’s plants to see new equipment in action. When Bill decided to sell his business, he made sure his broker reached out to us.

Have you been looking in NYC or did this just happen?

NYC has been on our radar for almost 10 years. Many of our Washington, DC and Philadelphia customers also have, or plan to have, locations in NYC. We want to be a strong partner for our independent restaurant groups so we have been looking for a way to enter NYC and expand our partnership with them.

Will you operate in Metro NYC as Dempsey or WH?

We will operate in Metro NYC as Dempsey, not WH Linen. Dempsey Uniform & Linen of New Jersey bought the assets of WH. Although we are operating out of the former WH facility and with the great people who worked there, we operate as Dempsey. Customers will see that change in our correspondence, website and vehicles in the coming months.

What trends are you seeing as we get ready for Fall ‘19? Table linen trends? Napkin trends? Uniform trends including aprons?

We see growth in napkin usage. Although there has been an increase in fast casual, it has become a fresh, high-quality napkin as part of the presentation. Paper napkins diminish the value of the meal.

What’s the next step for an operator that wants more info on Dempsey?

Give us a call or contact us online! Learn more about us at our website!


Dempsey Uniform & Linen of New Jersey, LLC, 707 Paulison Ave, Clifton, NJ 07011, 973-777-6350