STEUBENVILLE – When the biggest employers offer hiring bonuses and pay more than minimum wages and still struggle to fill positions, Tony Corella thinks guys like him in an industry like his have even less of a chance to find the help they need.
Corella, owner and operator of Two Brothers Dry Cleaners on North Fourth Street, said job seekers don’t even bother to show up for interviews.
“I can’t find any people” he said. “No one is knocking on the door to find a job here. “
The dry cleaning industry is contracting, at least locally. Where residents once had their choice of dry cleaning establishments to take their street clothes to the area, there are now only three locally – Two Brothers, Esquire Cleaners at 4332 Sunset Blvd. in Steubenville and Shuey’s Cleaners at 124 Seventh St. in Wellsburg. The latest to close was Friendly Dry Cleaners, which closed its operations on Main Street in Weirton during the summer.
“I ran this factory myself during the pandemic, basically” said Corella. “The dry cleaning, the laundry, I took care of everything myself. But I had a stroke, I can’t do it all now.
Corella said he drives to work at 8 a.m. and opens at 9 a.m. Currently, if he has to make a delivery, pick up or even take his son to a doctor’s appointment and his only part-time employee cannot come due to other commitments, he has to put a “firm” sign in the window. The sign has been in his window lately more than he would have liked.
“I want to sell the business because I can’t do it at the speed people want” he said, “I am also 69 years old. Most people my age are retired and I’m still here at 69.
Adding to his problems: The company he had recently sent housekeeping to told him that it could no longer go about its business, in part because of the size of its factory, the problems he is having with finding people willing to work as well as single employed mothers have to take time off work because their children have a fever and cannot go to school.
So forward, “I can do it, and it’s not great. I only have one employee, she has two jobs and she has children.
Esquire owner Bill DiMichele considers dry cleaning a dying art.
“The hardest part is that nobody wants to work now, and it’s hard work” he said. “They don’t want to do this like any other tough job. You can’t even bring a teller to work.
“My father did it for 40 years in Follansbee, he had Dimichele Cleaners”, he said. His uncles were also in the company. “It was back when there were employees to be recruited, now there are none. We are coming to an age where we would like to retire; I would like to give it to someone but there is no one there. What do I do? Who wants it, who wants to work?
DiMichele has owned Esquire since 2002, although the company has been around for approximately 60 years.
“It’s hot, there are a lot of overheads, a lot of machines, the EPA (to manage)”, he said. “And now the price of all supplies has tripled. You can’t raise the prices too high or people won’t come back, but in the short run things get so expensive that there isn’t much profit even if you can get (what you need). Business is really tough today.
At the same time, DiMichele says it is necessary.
“It’s not like the good old days when we had eight dry cleaners in Steubenville and they were all busy. he said. “The clothes are all different now, people wash them more, but there is still enough work to make a living. “
Shuey’s co-owner Kevin Geresti said the work was a tough sell.
“You are up and it’s hot” he said. “I have a fairly large installation and fans on the roof, so it’s a bit better, but in the middle of summer, it’s hot: if it’s 95 outside, there will be around 120 there. -inside.
But Geresti doesn’t consider Shuey to be a “Ordinary” dry cleaner, “We haven’t been open for 40 years.
This is because his business has branched out into post fire restoration, content cleaning, and even providing custom draperies for adjusters and restoration businesses, to help them be a full service business for high-end customers.
In the 1990s, Geresti said they made 2,500 shirts a day.
“Shuey’s was a wholesaler for every little dry cleaner that didn’t have their own shirt unit. Now casual Fridays have become everyday casual. Businesses have gone from dressing for success to letting employees wear what they want, and with that has gone the work ethic. People have stopped wearing sports suits and jackets. Then, during the pandemic, they wore pajamas or shirts and ties from the waist up. “
Geresti said her job is to try to anticipate trends that could negatively impact business.
“My job is to make sure that when one party slows down, whether it’s due to the economy or COVID or people working remotely or wearing casual clothes, to see that and move to other areas. . “ he said. “So when you watch Shuey’s it’s not like other cleaners.”
Geresti said equipment breakdowns can be prohibitive for some cleaners. A new cleaning machine can cost $ 60,000 to $ 70,000, he said, more than some stores can handle.
“Or the guys who’ve been there for years, they’re getting old and just ready to say ‘I’m done’, or they have health issues,” he said.