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Model Cleaners' LaCarte named Entrepreneur of the Year

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
John LaCarte, center, is joined at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 awards on Saturday, June 22, 2013, by his brothers, from left, Dave LaCarte, general manager of appraisal sales; Joe LaCarte, general manager of uniform operations; Mike LaCarte, general manager of dry cleaning operations; and Dan LaCarte, general manager of retail store and pickup and delivery.

Waiting patiently throughout the evening to hear his name ultimately called, John LaCarte said with a smile he felt a little like a nominee at the Academy Awards.

“They had sealed envelopes and no one knew who won,” LaCarte said. “And we were the last category.”

But the waiting was worth it for the president of Model Cleaners and a partner of Fratelli Brothers. LaCarte was named Entrepreneur of the Year for 2013 by Ernst & Young for Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia at the gala held last week at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh.

He will now compete for the national awards Nov. 13-17 in Palm Springs, Calif.

“The award really recognizes what we've done building a company in the Mon Valley,” LaCarte said. “My message is it's possible, you can invest in places like the Mon Valley.”

The company employs nearly 300 at 28 locations in western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio. Including its real estate operations, the company has added over 700 jobs to the region.

Model Cleaners was formed in 1930 at 140 Lincoln Ave.

But Jack LaCarte – John's father – bought Model Cleaners of Charleroi Inc. in 1986.

Jack LaCarte serves as general manager of RTS Packaging in Charleroi, where he was first hired in 1980.

In 1994, the business was moved to 100 Third St., Charleroi. Although not necessarily chosen for that reason, the former Fib Chem building was familiar to the LaCarte family. It was there that Jack LaCarte's father John J. LaCarte, operated Lock-Fold Paper Box Co.

The business expanded into Ohio, acquiring Fussy Cleaners in Akron –owned by their uncle, who passed away in 2008.

Operating as Fratelli Partners – translated means Brothers Partners - the firm also has diversified into real estate, including buildings in the Alta Vista industrial park in Fallowfield Township. These include homes for Gardner Denver Nash, Progeny Systems, Exide Technologies and Techno Care.

While he was honored, LaCarte said the award recognizes the work that he and his brothers have done to build Model Cleaners.

Model now employs leading technologies such as permanent bar codes and multi- read frequency chips to track garments.

Model Cleaners has also developed cellular phone applications that allow customers to accomplish task like checking on the status of pick-ups and deliveries.

The award continues what LaCarte called “a pretty amazing year.” In March, LaCarte's firm won the Build-to-Suit Industrial Award winner by The National Association Of Industrial and Office Properties, Pittsburgh Chapter.

The awards are recognition of the company's mission statement “to care for our customers, community and each other like family.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or