We sat down with Akram, the current owner, and son of the founder, to discuss being an East London lad, growing up in the family business and how he plans to shift from dry to wet cleaning for the good of the environment.
So tell me how the business began? My father started in 1976. We’re one of the oldest dry cleaners in Leyton. I took over in ’94; after my father passed away we’ve just been trying to keep the business afloat.
When did you start working for your father? Since I was about four. I learnt my ABCs there. My father had a family business with about ten shops, him and my uncle.
What occupied the building before your father founded the dry cleaners? It might have been a launderette. As far as I’m aware the only businesses which haven’t changed on the high street since my dad are the Bairstow Eves, Clarkins and us.
What has kept you in Leyton all these years? I was born in this manor, I work in this manor, I live in this manor – plus my house is ten minutes away. I’m lazy in that sort of sense.
What do you like about the community? Its diverse and a lot more people know me than I know them.
Is that a bit scary? I don’t mind, I’m used to it. I could be walking down and I’ve got people stopping me saying they’ve got dry cleaning and “need this to be done.”
The industry will be forced to replace its commonly used solvent Chlorothylene by 2020. How are you adapting to meet the new regulations? I’m actually going into eco-friendly. Type in lagoon wet cleaning into Google. The difference is dry cleaning goes through a whole cycle of wash, and it comes out dry, while wet cleaning is using water. It’s a new way forward. If you look at the statistics, there’s not many dry cleaners that live past 65. Look at my hands: they’ll go a lot harder than this. I have to cream them because it does have an effect. One of the reasons why I backed wet cleaning is because the amount of energy I use will be decreased.
What would you attribute to your success and longevity as a business?
Survival, that’s it!
Main image: Melissa Sigodo