Day in and day out, dirty laundry is one of life's sureties. In New Orleans, it's behind two defining parts of the city's social fabric: red beans and rice on Mondays (laundry day) and Young's Dry Cleaning (905 Harrison Ave., 504-872-0931; University Village Shopping Center, 6227 S. Claiborne Ave., 504-866-5371; www. youngsdrycleaning.com), a third-generation, family-owned and -operated business that has been open for 73 years.
Husband and wife Louis and Margie Young opened Young's Dry Cleaning in 1940 on the corner of Franklin and Filmore avenues, both of which were dirt roads at the time. In 1960, their daughter Judy married Ronald "Ronnie" Velez, who went to work for his in-laws. When Louis retired after 40 years, he handed Ronnie the keys to the business.
Years later, Ronnie employed his sons Don and Dale Velez, beginning at age 15. Ronnie retired after 40 years in business, and his sons became the new owners of Young's Dry Cleaning.
Dale Velez says he and his brother still abide by their grandfather's bus-iness philosophies.
"My grandfather instilled in us that customer service is key," Velez says. "He taught us to give the customers a good product at a fair price, and that's what you get."
Young's Dry Cleaning headquarters are in the same location where Louis and Margie Young first opened. Staying in the same place where their grandfather built his business has been a priority for Don and Dale, even after Hurricane Katrina destroyed all seven of their stores.
"It was extremely important for Don and I that we come back to this city that helped us stay here for 73 years," Velez says. "We've never had a store outside of New Orleans. We're invested in this city. We're not leaving."
A year after the storm, the brothers opened location on Claiborne Avenue Uptown. In 2007, they opened a store on Harrison Avenue in Lakeview.
While they have no immediate plans to expand, the Velez brothers have found other ways to reach additional customers in New Orleans. In addition to free home pick-up and delivery, Young's Dry Cleaning recently introduced "Busy Boxes," 24/7 automated lockers located in buildings across the city where customers drop off and pick up their dry cleaning. This system is useful for people who begin work before the dry cleaners opens and end after it closes. Young's currently has seven Busy Box locations citywide and plans to expand to 24.
"It'll be so much easier for people when they can drop their dry cleaning off in the lobby of their office building," Velez says.