When Lyman Jones came to work at Nu-Way Laundry and Cleaners in 1958, the business was one of 21 dry cleaners in Shelby. Today, it is one of two.
The business has survived a general decline in the luxury garment industry, the rise of casual office dress codes and an increase in machine-washable fabrics. Five months into the national coronavirus pandemic, the doors at Nu-Way are still open, but the business is struggling.
“It’s just killed our business. We are not breaking even, but we are here,” said Lyman. “We are down about 60 percent (of customers).”
Folks shifting to working at home, churches closing their doors and the lack of weddings and celebrations was enough to drive down a significant portion of his business. But a months-long street resurfacing project in uptown has also taken its toll.
“People are just not dirtying up their clothes,” he said. “The virus has hurt, but the street itself has been tore up all summer and that has hurt too. We are in the alley and when all the streets is closed and we have a lot of elderly ladies and they are just not used to it.”
The coronavirus pandemic has led to an nationwide downturn for folks in the garment cleaning business. Across the country this spring big events like proms, graduations and weddings were canceled, taking with them all of the money businesses like Nu-Way would make in tuxedo and dress cleaning.
In order to keep things going, Lyman cut his processors down to just a few days per week.
At 85 years old, Lyman said he knows his business can’t go on forever, especially when he’s lost more than half of his customer base. But he plans to keep going for as long as he can.
“I owe it to my customers to be here and I enjoy what I do and I enjoy my customers,” he said.