A Dry Cleaning Gem by: Jackie Smith

In the early 1980s, I went to work for Henderson Insurance Agency. They specialized, as they do now, in insuring dry cleaners. At that time, men dominated the dry cleaning industry. All meetings or seminars I attended, I found myself to be one of the few women there.
That world changed for me when I attended an open house held by Kelleher Equipment at their warehouse. There, holding a seminar was this pint-sized dynamo named Doris Easley. OMG! Here was this woman who was excited about the industry. She had so much knowledge to share and she really wanted to share what she knew to make you a better professional dry cleaner. If you have not met Doris, you will now. She is a remarkable woman and definitely one of the industry’s gems.

Doris was born in North Dakota. In the early days, she wanted to be a nurse. However, at 4′ – 11″ she could not make the height requirements – she decided to become a teacher instead. She married then she and her husband moved to California in 1943 and started a dry cleaning business in Richmond. After a divorce, she was left with the dry cleaning business and three children to raise. From that time, she took every class she could in handling fabrics. Doris developed her own tools and techniques for cleaning fabric.

Thus in 1968, she became a pioneer for women in the dry cleaning business. Doris was the first woman President of the International Dry Cleaners Congress. She served on the California Department of Consumer Affairs State Licensing Board of Fabric Care. She has presented fabricare seminars not only in the United States but abroad as well. She has been a guest speaker on many radio and television programs.

Doris’ passion now is the cleaning and renovation of heirloom pieces. She has worked with such fragile museum pieces as cave burial wraps made in the 8th century and pieces previously owned by Hollywood celebrities. To handle these garments, she puts on her gloves, gets out cotton swabs, tiny brushes and an eyedropper solution to cleanse the stains. Doris has restored Belgian lace and linens belonging to Mrs. Herbert Hoover and a gown belonging to Princess Diana. She has also cleaned mud and grass stains off the uniform shirt of Willie Mays and Dan Marino!

Doris most relishes the sentimental items, such as christening or wedding dresses. “It’s people’s treasures,” Doris said, “these are the things that keep me going.”

While Doris does no advertising, she has “more business than she can handle.” “Doris is one of the most knowledgeable people in our industry,” said Jim Douglas of Prestige Cleaners in Sacramento, California.

Doris credits her success to patience and being “up front” with her clients. Good communication is important. The type of items Doris handles are very different from most of the items you handle, but communication is the key.

The most amazing thing that I have not mentioned is this special dry cleaning gem has just turned ninety years young! She looks exactly like she did when I first saw her in the early 1980’s. She has no plans to retire…she loves what she does! Doris, you are truly a special person. She will be walking the floor at Fabricare 2012. So, if you see her, introduce yourself. You will be richer for knowing her.

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