So, I had mentioned I just left a career of 30+ years to embark on a new journey?
It was more than a career, it was my whole life. Then again, anyone that has been closely involved in a family business will tell you that. My grandparents started a dry cleaning business in 1947. I am sure they had no idea what the longevity of it would be, but they set out on the adventure anyway, regardless that they had little to no experience in the field. Sadly, my grandfather passed away unexpectedly in 1954, before his dream really had a chance to expand. My grandmother was left to carry on alone. She had a handful of employees and my mother to help. Looking back, I think about how extraordinary it was for a woman to be a business owner in the 1950’s. My mother came on board working after school until she graduated and could work full time. Together, they carried on through good times and bad as they navigated to waters of small business ownership as a team.
My formative years were spent by spending summer breaks and after school time at the business, helping out where I could, A lot of my younger years I would enjoy going with my grandmother as she made deliveries to customers, something we did until 1980. I began my career by simply watching how the whole process worked, from when the garments came in, to when they were bagged and put on the line for pick up. As I grew I would regularly observe my grandmother use a combination of chemicals and soaps to remove stains with careful consideration for the fabric type and color fastness. I also quickly became the assembly line finisher to help cut the slack. If you could reach the rack, you were old enough to work. For me, that was by age 12.
I was off to college in the late 1980’s, but quickly made a U-turn when my grandmother became ill. I remained in the family business mostly ran by my mother and I until I decided to walk away in 2019.
The demand on the industry shifted a bit in those 20+ years, but we adapted by buying new equipment and listening to our customers. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears ( mostly sweat) went into that labor of love that spanned almost 73 years. Most notably that it was a business almost exclusively ran by women, except for the few years my grandfather was involved.
I have learned many tricks to the trade in my 30+ years in the dry cleaning industry. and I absorbed countless tips watching and working beside my grandmother. I am hoping to share some of the tricks to the trade I have learned during my years of trial and error, and maybe shed some light on some of the mystery that surrounds dry cleaning.
Sadly, I feel that it is an industry that is misunderstood and not given the value as the quality profession it deserves.
Stay tuned. Up next? What is dry cleaning?