After 42 years in a business where the joys and sorrows of life were displayed through the clothing people needed cleaned or altered, Mike and Maro Hovnanian are closing Park Street Dry Cleaners, across from the Paramount Center. The last day the shop is open for pickup of clothes is tomorrow, Nov. 20.
Their business model treated customers like family and with the news of their departure, a steady stream of people has been stopping by the small shop to express their sorrow and sense of loss to the hard working, kind couple. Maro’s friendly way of engaging with customers even led to gaining a daughter-in-law. Jennifer Meyer, who was living in Peekskill with her grandmother Virginia Bourne in 1994 stopped by the business when she was on jury duty in Peekskill. She and Maro struck up a conversation that led to Jennifer meeting their son Dikran. Two years later they were married and today are the parents of three boys.
During the past few years, the Hovnanians were considering retirement, saying “next year we’ll do it”. “‘Next year’”arrived with the pandemic and the downturn in business, said Dikran Hovnanian, their son. “They’ve been working 42 years; that’s a long time to be doing the same thing,” said Dikran.
The world has changed, said landlord Arnie Paglia who learned from the couple in late August that they would be closing up shop in the fall. “People don’t need pressed shirts for work when they’re wearing sweats, working from home. They aren’t going to weddings and other formal events where they need clothes altered and cleaned,” said Paglia who has been their landlord for the past seven years when they moved to his building on Brown Street from Park Street.
The money maker for the business was the alterations and tailoring side of the operation. Maro, an expert seamstress, sat at the front of the shop with her sewing machine and created a welcoming environment with lit candles and a tv on in the background. The dry-cleaning component ran at break-even said their son who would work in the shop one day a week to give his parents time off. When the couple’s rent at the Park Street location doubled, they were looking for a space and told colleague Nunzio from Clemente Cleaners on Hudson Avenue that they were trying to move. He suggested they speak to Paglia about his space on Brown Street. That type of collaboration characterized the way the Hovnanian’s operated. Rather than take money upfront to dry clean items upon drop off, they ran on the honor system that people would return to pick up clothing.
That model worked when the Hovnanians had equipment on the premises that cleaned the clothing. When they moved from Park Street to Brown Street seven years ago, the new space wasn’t big enough for their equipment, so they brought the dry cleaning to a family member that owned a business with the equipment at a shop in Mahopac.
They incurred an upfront cost to have the clothing cleaned and when people didn’t return to pick up items, the Hovnanian’s were left with the clean items. That situation and the resulting decrease in demand for dry cleaning during the pandemic forced their hand to end their presence in the Peekskill business community.
Story by Regina Clarkin