Curt Rothrock heads flagship location, adding fourth-generation leadership to Yale Cleaners
At 12, William Curtis Rothrock IV, known as Curt to everyone, began working at Yale Cleaners, officially marking the start of a fourth generation of family members to join the company.
It was a humble beginning, though. He wasn’t given special treatment or passes to avoid the hard work.
In fact, he was given a mop and a bucket.
“I started out as a mop boy in my dad’s store,” Curt said. “And, then, I would sort through recycled hangers to see which ones we needed recycled and which ones we could reuse.”
When he was old enough to get his driver’s learners permit, he worked the front counter at his dad’s location. In his later high school years, he ran the evening counter at the Owasso store. After college and a stint living in Oklahoma City, he was ready to return to Tulsa and join the family business for good.
“He started training to be a manager about six months before COVID,” said John Rothrock, Yale Cleaners president and CEO. “When he came back, he learned the back of the house. He started learning how to finish clothes, and he learned the science and chemistry of cleaning clothes. He started learning the management of the employees and customer service. He excelled through our training program.”
In short, Curt put in the hard work, John said.
“He trained with several of our managers so they could impart their expertise on what they do best,” he said. “He got to take the best from the best. And I think it really helped his growth as a young manager.”
About a year ago, Curt completed management training and became the store manager of the 71st Street and Sheridan.
“Curt really improved the store quality, the staff and the cleanliness of the store,” John said. “He really improved a lot of things and showed all of us what kind of manager he could be.”
While managing his first store last year, Curt also worked to earn his Certified Professional Dry Cleaner certification. Because of his efforts and dedication to the advancement of Yale Cleaners during this time, Yale Cleaners recently promoted Curt to store manager of our flagship store at 41st Street and Harvard Avenue.
“Curt has already done a great job in this new manager role, and he’s only been there about eight weeks,” John said. “It takes a while to get to know your customers and their names, but he’s well on his way. He’s already growing into this new role very well.”
Fourth-generation leadership adds to Yale Cleaners stability
Not only has Curt assumed a leadership role within the business, he is also the fourth-generation in the family to do so. John Rothrock is his uncle, and his father, William Curtis Rothrock III, or Bill to everyone, is Yale Cleaners General Manager.
“It is pretty awesome to see a fourth generation come into a family company and really excel,” John said. “Curt is working open-to-close six days a week. He’s working hard in his store to make it all it can be.”
John said it is equally satisfying to see a fourth generation rise to leadership because of what it means for the future stability and success of Yale Cleaners. He said 76 percent of small businesses fail in the third generation, but only seven percent fail if they make it to a fourth generation.
“For me, it is such a sense of pride,” John said. “Yale Cleaners is like another family member to all of us. And Curt was able to learn his work ethic from his family, and we, in turn, learned it from our parents. There is a lot of pride in being able to carry on what your father and your granddad build and keep building it to maybe pass on to your children too.”
Curt, with his wife Landry, are expecting their first child this July. And building that legacy is certainly on his mind already – even if it’s driven from a competitive streak to be the best, even among family.
“In my family, my dad is known as the best dry cleaner – the actual dry-cleaning aspect,” Curt said. “He’s known as the best presser and best stain remover. He knows the ends and outs of the cleaning solutions we use. I guess you could call it my competitive nature, but I just want to be better than him. But, not in the way that it sounds: I want to eventually be even better than him so that as my brother gets more involved and my cousins get involved, we can help make the company better and better for our customers.”
Sounds like he’s well on his way.