NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – A family business in New Haven is celebrating its 65th anniversary. Lasting that long in any business is tough, but the dry-cleaning business got a lot tougher in the past year and a half.
It was August 6, 1956 when Mike Amore’s father first opened Jet Cleaners in New Haven.
“He ended up finding the property at 700 State, which had been a Clark Dairy and had just moved,” Amore said. He basically started the business for his dad and his brother.”
Mike wasn’t even born yet. It was a different time for cleaners
“When you look back and you think of the show Mad Men – crisp white shirts, ties,” said Amore.
After about ten years, they built a bigger operation, also on State Street. Back in the early ’70s, when the Black Panther trials were happening, Jet was a part of history, getting the phones tapped by law enforcement.
“That was because we had an African American presser that was a Black Panther sympathizer,” Amore explained.
The business moved across State Street to a smaller space in late 2016. They downsized because the demand for cleaning services was getting smaller. They just didn’t know how small it was going to get in the year 2020.
“All of a sudden, the pandemic hits. Business goes from here to there,” Amore said, pointing way down. “Seventy percent of my business is just gone in a matter of weeks.”
Mike had to get creative, doing fluff and fold laundry, and going the…extra mile.
“Had a Yale customer. Had a big order on the rack. I said, ‘Sheila, can I come deliver that?’ ‘Mike, I’m in Old Saybrook. You don’t deliver to Old Saybrook,'” Amore remembered. “I said, ‘We’re the cleaners that doesn’t say no. It’s the pandemic.’ I said, ‘Absolutely.'”
His hard-working father would be proud. Mike has just passed his father. He has now been running Jet for 33 of those 65 years. He still has the shirt from the original sign hanging in the store.
“Being part of that whole history of New Haven is just very, very satisfying,” Amore said. “We left our mark. If we closed our door tomorrow, we left our mark.”
He is nowhere near ready to do that, however. He plans to be right here in ten years to celebrate the 75th anniversary.