Business & Real Estate

Adapting to drought, longtime Sacramento linen cleaning business cuts water use

Gordon T. MacAulay, a third-generation family member and vice president of Shasta Linen Supply, speaks with congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) during her tour of the company’s industrial cleaning business in downtown Sacramento. The company, who does linens for restaurant, hotel and hospital clients, says its recent water-reduction measures are saving 2,000 gallons a year.
Gordon T. MacAulay, a third-generation family member and vice president of Shasta Linen Supply, speaks with congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) during her tour of the company’s industrial cleaning business in downtown Sacramento. The company, who does linens for restaurant, hotel and hospital clients, says its recent water-reduction measures are saving 2,000 gallons a year.

As they have been doing for the past 92 years, workers at Shasta Linen Supply in Sacramento were doing the laundry on Thursday.

That would be laundry for nearly 1,000 customers in Northern California’s medical and restaurant industries.

Amid the cacophony created by massive cleaning, pressing and drying machines, Thursday’s routine at 1931 E St. was marked by a visit from U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, who cited the family-owned company’s efforts to be more environmentally friendly and conserve water.

With California’s drought issues and water conservation measures dominating the headlines in recent weeks, Matsui cited Shasta as an example of a historically heavy water-using business now doing its part to conserve.

“More businesses are thinking that way now,” Matsui said. “They’re looking at the way they do businesses with an understanding to conserve water and be more environmentally responsible.”

Noel Richardson, Shasta’s president and CEO and the fourth generation of her family to oversee the company, told Matsui that Shasta started seriously re-evaluating its processes more than a year ago, a move that included energy conservation measures and using environmentally friendly detergents.

Richardson said Shasta has seen a significant reduction in water usage over the past year, simply by recalibrating its equipment and “juggling” washing procedures and scheduling. She said Shasta is using approximately 2,000 fewer gallons of water per week than it was a year ago.

Those changes apply to the everyday process of cleaning mountains of restaurant tablecloths and napkins, chef and serving staff uniforms, medical uniforms and lab coats, hospital gowns, pillow slips and scores of other linens.

“We really are trying to be aware of the environmental footprint we’re leaving,” Richardson said.

Looking ahead, Richardson said the company is contemplating a water reclamation system to re-use its wastewater, which would be a major project at the company’s site, which borders a midtown Sacramento residential neighborhood. She did not offer specifics.

During Matsui’s tour of the facility, some of Shasta’s 61 employees were busy dumping sofa-sized loads of linens into enormous, custom-built washing and drying machines. Carts of dirty linens were lined up in assembly-line fashion.

At one station, restaurant chef coats were being pressed and moving along a line that includes laser bar coding to keep track of the garments of specific customers. Besides cleaning garments and linens, Shasta delivers them to hundreds of destinations in its service area that encompasses Sacramento, Modesto and Fairfield.

Richardson explained how Shasta is using environmentally friendly detergents and chemicals in its processes, while maintaining state-mandated washing standards for temperature and handling.

“With the changes, it’s important to maintain quality,” Richardson said. “We were concerned at first that some (“green” detergents) would not live up to the standards, but I actually think (linens) look whiter now. ... These changes are occurring throughout our industry.”

Matsui said she has known multiple generations of the family-owned company’s owners and was pleased that a longtime business had implemented changes to reduce energy and water use. “They’ve invested in the future. This is what we do in Sacramento.”

Matsui also noted Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent executive order to implement water conservation and the involvement of state agencies to reduce water use statewide.

“More people are talking about it now, and that’s good,” she said. “The state understands that we need to change. Industries understand that.”

Shasta Linen Supply’s origins date back more than a century, when Andrew MacAulay immigrated to the United States from Scotland. He established MacAulay’s Laundry in Chicago. He would later move West, setting up multiple laundries.

His son, Gordon A. MacAulay, entered the family business after returning from military service in World War I. In 1948, Gordon A. MacAulay purchased the Herb Grow Laundry, a firm founded in 1923, and renamed it Shasta Linen Supply. In the 1950s, the Sacramento operation was converted from a family laundry to a commercial linen supply business.

Call The Bee’s Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.

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