Local dry cleaners surviving during the pandemic

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF)- The pandemic has affected many industries, but one of the hardest hit is dry cleaners.

Old Fort Cleaners has been serving the Fort Oglethorpe community since 1987.

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However, the family owned business says that they have seen a decline in their customers during the pandemic.

Mostly because people are working from home, wearing casual clothes and they’ve also seen a decline in wedding ceremonies as well as funeral services.

Jennifer Hughes, co-owner of Old Fort Cleaners, says, “A lot of our churches around here, they’re not going to church or, they’ve missed a lot of church. We missed wedding season, prom season, graduation. Now, we’re getting on to our next wedding season. So, hopefully, it will start picking up then.”

Old Fort is not the only dry cleaning business that is working hard to keep serving their communities.

The dry cleaning and laundry institute believes that 30 percent of dry cleaners could be forced to shut down over the next 18 months.

Something that Hughes has already seen happening.

Fortunately for her, that means she has acquired some new customers.

Hughes says, “There’s been a cleaners close down the street and a few in Chattanooga. So, we’ve seen a lot of new people. But, we’ve had some of the same customers I’ve known since I was 12 years old.”

Customers like Anthony Fowler that have been coming for nearly 20 years.

“I’m sure they have felt the squeeze like other places have. So, they’ve been hanging in there. You can pretty well expect the same job every time you come here. They usually do a good job on the clothing”, adds Fowler.

The cleaners has only lost one employee during the pandemic.

But, Hughes is hopeful that the vaccine will bring some much needed relief.