LAURINBURG — Norman Mathis said he is ready to throw in the towel … the linen dress, the suit jacket and the quilted comforter.
Mathis, who owns Village Cleaners, is looking for someone to buy his Laurinburg shop. After nearly three decades in the dry cleaning business, Mathis said it is time to retire.
“I’m 67 years old,” he said. “Let somebody else have some fun.”
Mathis, who has lived in Scotland County since he was 10, said he may not miss the work, but he will miss his customers.
“The best part about this business is that I got to know a lot of good people,” he said. “We might not converse more than five minutes a month, but after 26 years you feel like you know them and that they’re your friends.”
Mathis purchased the shop from Jack Rushin, who had operated it for about 10 years prior to Mathis taking ownership.
“Jack told me that it was for sale and it seemed like a good fit for what I was doing,” said Mathis, who owned a contract cleaning service at the time.
But having two similar, but separate businesses soon became unwieldy.
“It got to the point that when I was here, I needed to be out there and when I was out there, I needed to be here.” he said. “One day I decided it was time to give one of them up.”
Mathis said he and his staff learned the business by attending classes and trade shows — many of which were organized by the North Carolina Dry Cleaners Association.
“We tried to avail ourselves of the all the information we could,” he said. “It turned out to be something I loved.”
Mathis said the dry cleaning business was “really, really good” when he took over the shop. But he said a changing economy, that included layoffs and plant shut downs, changed that. Still he insists that the business can be lucrative.
“The economy has caused business to be a lot different that when we started,” he said. “It was booming back then. But there is still a need for the service we provide.”
Village Cleaners launders and dry cleans everything from dress shirts to wedding gowns. The shop also stores items for customers. And according to Mathis, his is the only dry cleaner in town with a walk-out dry thru.
“Most cleaners will pass you your items through the window, but we go out and put it in your car,” he said. “My wife and my employees are not too crazy about that feature when it rains.”
Mathis credits quality workmanship and friendly customer service for his business’ longevity.
The long-time merchant is quick to share a joke and even quicker to break into a grin at a story he has certainly told more than once.
“Did you know that coming to the cleaner’s was a learning experience if you were a child?,” Mathis said in a serious tone. “A lady came through the drive thru to drop her husband shirts off and she told me that they were trying to teach her child his telephone number at school. Because mother and son had been here so many times, when the teacher asked the kid what his phone number was he said, “277-9160 no starch.”
When he does retire, Mathis said he and his wife, Pat, plan to travel and visit family.
Retirement will also give him more time for community involvement, he said. Over the years, Mathis has donated his time and money to help various civic groups in Scotland County. On the cleaner’s counter and often on the shop’s glass door are fliers for local plate sales and community events.
“I’ve done some volunteer work in the past and there is plenty of opportunity to do that kind of work in Scotland County … so I’m looking forward to that.
“There are no real plans because you know how plans are,” he said. “I just want to play it by ear.”
Reach editor Scott Witten at 910-506-3023