- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 10, 2006

A local dry-cleaning chain is hoping to clean up in the region with as many as 20 new facilities over the next two years.

Zips, a Greenbelt chain of dry cleaners that promises one-day service for a flat $1.85 fee, just received franchising rights in Maryland and Virginia. Shirts cost $1.09.

The company, which has 12 stores from Timonium, Md., to Fredericksburg, Va., hopes to open as many as eight stores over the next 12 months and another dozen the following year. From there, Zips wants to expand to the District, Pennsylvania, the Carolinas and Florida, according to Kathleen McDonald, managing director of Zips franchising.

As part of the expansion, Zips has installed a computer program that allows it to track every item of clothing through every point of the dry-cleaning process, cutting down on the number of items lost to the proverbial black hole or sent home with the wrong customer.

“It’s always been an issue in the dry-cleaning business where garments tend to get misplaced or sent to the wrong person,” Ms.McDonald said. “When you handle the volume we handle, it becomes a consideration when you look to [expand].”

Tourism asks for visa extension

The U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, a Commerce Department advisory panel, last week asked the agency to develop a national strategy to improve international travel to the United States.

Repeating requests many in the travel industry have made, the panel in a report asked for an extension of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which would require sea and air travelers to have visas when entering the United States from most of the Western Hemisphere in January, and elsewhere by January 2008.

It also recommended incorporating hospitality practices into U.S. Customs; forming an international tourism campaign; a Cabinet-level or similar position for a tourism official; and a reduction in the number of fees and taxes imposed on travelers, in the form of rental car or hotel taxes, at the state and local levels.

The Travel Industry of America, a District trade group, is organizing a two-day summit this week for state and local governments to raise awareness of a national tourism campaign.

Balducci’s nixesPenn Quarter

Balducci’s decided for the second time not to open a store in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of the District, a company spokeswoman said Friday.

The Sutton Place Group chain announced in April that it would not open the store, which already had a signed lease, on Seventh Street NW. Within three months, Balducci’s said it would reconsider in light of pleas from neighborhood residents.

Late last week, the company said again that it would not open the store. Instead, it is looking for another grocery chain to take over the lease.

Buried treasurefound in Fairfax

An Alexandria resident uncovered some buried treasure — in the form of an Infiniti FX — in Grist Mill Park in Fairfax County near Alexandria Labor Day weekend.

Alexandra Huebner won the car during a treasure hunt by Visit Fairfax, the county’s tourism agency. Ten contestants out of 12,000 entrants were chosen to participate in the hunt through Fairfax County.

• Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to Jen Haberkorn at jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-4836.

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