When Maynard and June Chambers opened their first dry cleaning business on N. Columbia St. in Milledgeville in 1969, they wanted to make sure customers knew they were up to the task of tending to their garments. Not wanting to open up an empty shop, they cleared out their closets at home and hung their own clothes around the shop so the store would appear busy to the first customers. Little by little, as business began to pick up, they were able to take their clothes back home, the racks being replaced by the garments of actual customers.
Fifty years later, Chambers Cleaners is still providing quality service to their customers under the leadership of Maynard and June’s son Steve and his wife Teresa.
A self-described laid-back kind of person, Steve never made a big celebration out of the fiftieth year of the family business.
“I just quietly went about my business and went to work on year 51,” said Chambers with a smile.
Today, Chambers Cleaners provides services in dry cleaning, wet cleaning, wedding dress preservation and stain removal, as well as mending and alterations done by their two experienced seamstresses. For Chambers, the business represents a majority of his life, as he and his brother started helping their parents in the store on weekends as young boys.
Chambers officially joined his parents in the business in 1978. His brother Mike came on board in 1980. For 20 years, Steve and Mike, along with their wives Teresa and Kerry, ran the business along with their parents. During this period, the business relocated to its current location at 901 N. Jefferson St. When Maynard and June decided to retire in 2000, Mike decided to move into a new career field, and Steve and Teresa bought out the remainder of the business. The two have run the business ever since. Chambers Cleaners also has a drop-off and pick-up store front location in Sandersville.
When it comes to working alongside his wife of 38 years, Chambers is clear to point out that the two complement each other in many ways.
“We’re around each other 24/7. It’s a unique relationship,” said Chambers. “It’s very nice to be able to get the best out of each other. That’s what it’s all about.”
Throughout their years in business, Chambers has seen a variety of trends in the dry cleaning industry. Where there were once only a couple of chemicals used in the cleaning process, there are now over 20 chemicals widely used on the market. Wet cleaning has also become a bigger part of the industry, now representing approximately 60% of the business that Chambers Cleaners does.
“More and more clothing has gotten away from the ‘dry clean only’ type of clothing,” said Chambers. And despite the preponderance of permanent press and wrinkle free options available on the market, “There are individuals that still like the crispness of a dress shirt, that like to wear a sport coat, ladies that wear professional suits that want everything looking nice.”
Chambers notes that even when garments are labeled as machine washable, his staff has the knowledge of different fabrics and of what combinations of chemicals can be used to lift stains. Chambers Cleaners also has the equipment needed to finish a garment professionally and have it looking like new.
With his many years in the industry, Chambers has accrued a wealth of knowledge on specific practices and techniques in cleaning. In 2008, Chambers joined a board of dry cleaning professionals representing the southeastern United States.
Said Chambers, “Through it, I learned about how museums preserve wedding gowns. They do it hanging. There is extra support that is put in. The gown is put in a muslin cotton bag.”
This breathable bag provides air flow which allows for better preservation of the dress. Chambers now preserves over half of the wedding gowns that come into his store using this museum method. Those who prefer the traditional box preservation method for their gown still have that option as well.
Chambers spent several years serving on professional boards, and his time in service took him to places such as California, Colorado, Florida and Massachusetts. Throughout all of his service, he learned many tricks and techniques to perfect his work. Chambers has also used his knowledge of cleaning techniques over the years to dabble in carpet and upholstery cleaning, medical linen cleaning and smoke and fire damage restoration.
But when it all comes down to it, serving his dry cleaning customers has always been at heart of what he does. He describes a customer trusting him and his staff with their special garments as “a challenge, but also very rewarding.”
Chambers enjoys helping customers look their best for their special events, whether that be a wedding, a prom, a family Christmas party, or simply going to church on Sunday morning.
“It’s all about making somebody feel good about themselves,” said Chambers. “It’s a joy to be able to not only do that, but to also be told ‘thank you so much for making me look good.’”