Business & Real Estate

Dry cleaner rises from the ashes

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Abraham Molina recently opened DryCleanerVia.com on El Camino Real in Los Altos.

Abraham Molina is finding a new start in Los Altos after his last dry-cleaning business went up in flames last fall. While the timing isn’t ideal – he launched his new store on El Camino Real just as the state’s shelter-in-place order went into effect – DryCleanerVia.Com is open for business.

“We trust that business will come and this will pass, but our goal is not really to try to get our name out there,” said Molina, who postponed the store’s mid-March official grand opening. “Our goal is to see how we can help, see what we can do.”

DryCleanerVia.Com opens at 9 a.m., which is an hour later than Molina first planned but gives the staff more time to organize and disinfect the store. Customers are given their own reusable laundry bags, which Molina said he implemented after noticing his clientele’s concern for the environment. The clothes are inspected and separated into bins – one customer’s clothes are never mixed with another’s. The store’s machines put clothes through a pre-wash, a regular laundry cycle and then a rinse cycle, which is “basically like medical-grade cleaning for the clothes,” Molina said.

He added that business has not slowed down dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic; those who are still at work, like doctors and nurses in the area, come in less frequently but with more laundry. Other customers come in more frequently with fewer clothes, while some just stop by to chat and to “get out of the house a little bit,” he said.

Family business

Molina and his family have been in the dry-cleaning business for nearly three decades. He said his mother first owned a store in San Jose’s Santa Teresa neighborhood and left when the landlords sold the property. Then for nearly two decades, she ran Bonita Cleaners in San Jose, where Molina worked when he was in high school. When she retired, Molina took the helm.

Bonita Cleaners caught fire last November and had to close. Molina said he is still in touch with some of those customers, who sometimes call to complain that their new dry cleaner doesn’t know how they like their clothes done.

That location might reopen in the future, but Molina said he is now focused on keeping in touch with those customers and replicating those relationships in Los Altos.

“It was really like a family thing with those customers,” he said.

Alison Carpenter, who lives two blocks away from Bonita Cleaners, used to frequent the business monthly. Once when she brought in her daughter’s coat for cleaning, the employees mended some minor repairs that the coat needed at no charge. She described the business as “a little family-run, small-town-feel cleaner” that always remembered her name.

“There aren't many businesses nowadays where you walk in and people remember you,” she said. “It’s not like that.”

Molina’s landlord recently approved the business to do curbside pickup and drop-offs to reduce physical contact. Molina said he also hopes, pending city approval, to implement home deliveries and drop-offs for those who would prefer not to leave their homes. He added that elderly customers, law enforcement and medical professionals will receive free pickup and delivery.

“More than anything, we just want to see how we can help and offer our services to those people that need it,” he said. “Who knows what other people we haven’t met out there in the community that might be in need of our services?”

DryCleanerVia.Com is located at 4600 El Camino Real, Suite 107. Regular hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. The store’s DryCleanerVia.Com website is not yet live; for more information on the business, call 921-7128.

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