COVID-19’s impact on local dry cleaner

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NIXA, Mo. – From working in an office every day to working from home, suit pants and blazers may not be making it out of your closet much these days. Local dry cleaners are noticing.

The sound of the dryer door slamming isn’t what Nixa laundromat owner Laysa Putnam thought she would hear anytime soon. A fire destroyed her building in 2018.

“We were shut down for a year,” Putnam said.

Her business, Nixa Dry Cleaners and Laundry, re-opened just months before another tragedy: COVID-19.

“You learn that you’ve just got to fight your way through it,” Putnam said. “You’ve got to do the best that you can. You’ve got to sometimes rely on other people.”

But that didn’t work when Christian County had its first coronavirus case last March.

“We noticed a huge decline,” Putnam said. “People staying home, not working, or out as much. They didn’t have as much dry cleaning. Everybody went through a really scary period. You didn’t know what was going to happen. Nobody had ever experienced something like that before. We would talk to each other all the time.”

Putnam had to lay off some of her employees. But, she eventually brought them back thanks to a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program.

She then had to think of ways to get more people inside.

“We started offering curbside,” Putnam said. “Delivery services. We do bundle services for people which is wash, dry, and fold their laundry. Things are doing better, yes. But, it took a lot of work to get there.”

At Family Dry Cleaners in Republic, manager Austin Husk introduced an express service.

“I can give you one of our bags and you write your name on the tag so it minimizes the amount of time that we spend in the store,” Husk said. “You are on your side, and I’m on my side. That helps in that regard, yeah.”

What also helps is being considered an essential business.

“You can’t get in anywhere without a sanitation station,” Husk said. “That’s basically what we are. So, we have also gotten more business as well.”

Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Putnam says she learned an important lesson.

“You’ve just got to have faith and keep going the best that you can,” Putnam said.

Husk did, too.

“Be prepared and ready for anything is what I would say to everybody out there,” Husk said.

The Dry Cleaning and Laundry Institute believes 30% of dry cleaners could be forced to shut down over the next 18 months. Putnam says she tries to focus on how she’s doing instead of looking at national predictions. She says it’s all she can handle.

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