In 1929, Richard “Dox” Farmer founded Acme Wiper and Industrial Laundry in Cincinnati. The company’s business model revolved around washing and recycling soiled rags thrown out by factories and then selling them back good as new. Eventually Acme transitioned from washing and reselling rags to producing and renting out whipping towels and uniforms. After nearly four decades of prosperity for the company, Richard’s grandson Dick took over operations. In 1967, Dick founded the Satellite Corporation in order to purchase smaller uniform facilities across the United States. In 1973 Satellite acquired Acme and changed its name to Cintas.
Throughout the 70s and 80s Cintas continued to bring smaller facilities under its brand. In the 90s the company made three of its most significant acquisitions: Canada-based Cadet Uniform Services, Chicago-based Uniforms to You, and Kansas City-based Unitog. It just so happened that Unitog had a location in the Olive Link’s Industrial District. After that location joined Cintas, it came to be the largest provider of uniforms and facility services from St. Louis to Carbondale.
Cintas’s Olive Link location rents culinary and cleanroom uniforms, flame resistant clothing, high image and classic comfort uniforms, and Carhartt clothing. It also offers commercial and industrial grade janitorial and facility supplies. With its high-quality rentals and services, Cintas has cornered the St. Louis market for major hotels, restaurants and car services.
According to Quentin Williams, the Olive Link location’s general manager, “Cintas is the go-to organization for these kinds of services because of its ability to provide a distinct, professional image to corporate identity.” Mr. Williams credits the Olive Link for much of Cintas’s success in the area. “Olive is a great connector for businesses. It’s a thriving market that allows both small and large enterprises to flourish. Its central location and diversity make it a one-stop-shop for residents in the surrounding area, and it also provides us with easy access to the rest of the St. Louis region.”
Like many Olive Link businesses, Cintas’s connection to the St. Louis region runs deeper than the logistics of a central location. Mr. Williams, who is also a member of the University City Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, asserts that the organization places a huge emphasis on giving back to the community. From clothing and food drives to working with the Urban League and United Way, Cintas is very active in making sure that the St. Louis area is a great place to live.
This focus on community reflects Cintas’s devotion to its employees. “It’s fundamental that Cintas be more than just a job for the people who work here,” says Mr. Williams. “We’re an organization that enables people to be proud of where they work, and it’s important that we help them provide for their families as well as themselves.” As the general manager of the Olive Link location, Mr. Williams is able to act as a “servant and coach who assists employees in both work and home matters every single day.”
Mr. Williams is specifically interested in ensuring the prosperity of University City. “Being a member of the Chamber’s board allows me to help open doors for small businesses,” he says. “Whether we’re big or small, all businesses are in the trenches together, and we all need support. So if I can use my position as a manager and board member to provide support and encouragement that can make a difference, I will.”
With its small businesses origins, robust business model and commitment to its employees and the community, Cintas is a great example of the Olive Link’s ability to attract and cultivate large and small enterprises. As an industrial firm in a neighborhood known for locally-owned retail and ethnic restaurants, it is emblematic of the Olive Link’s versatility and diversity. Most importantly, Cintas is a perfect illustration of how the most successful businesses are devoted to the workers and customers who enable their success. If such an organization is proud to call the Olive Link home, then the future of the district looks bright.
6200 Olive Blvd.
University City, MO 63130