The Union Recorder


March 21, 2013

Dry cleaner celebrates 80-year history


A local dry cleaner maintains quite a resume beginning in 1933. Protective Cleaners opened a South Wayne Street location with $500 of borrowed family money and one employee.

The business moved in 1940 to South Wilkinson Street as an established dry cleaning and full service laundry vendor.

Protective was one of the early groups at Hatcher Square Mall by 1965. Twenty-four years later the dry cleaning business shifted again to its current main location at 1000 N. Columbia St.

The Owen family has seen it all the last 80 years and is celebrating that milestone this month. 

Tony Owen said his daughter Britt started working at Protective at age 13. Son Trey came up in the business as well and splits operational duties with his sister.

Family always sticks together. Trey said his father’s expertise gets called on routinely because he’s seen it all.

“It helps you get through,” Owen said. “There’s a determining factor that you’ve got to make it, so we do.”

Trey said the dry cleaning machine and solvents are continuously evolving. Operations are more user-friendly compared to foot operated presses years ago.

From technology to style changes, Protective Cleaners found the secret to relevancy.

The day runs smoothly with several of the 10 current employees’ experience. Two ladies have spent a combined 41 years on the production and customer service sides.

“We’ve got a great group of people that have been loyal to us through good and bad times,” Trey said. “Those two think the same way I do.”

Protective survived fabric fads and service alterations. The business used to handle the old hospital and several local motels’ laundry.

Business changes as modern professional style does.

“People have changed what they wear. It’s more casual now days. People don’t necessarily wear coats and ties,” Owen said.

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