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It wasn’t always Brown’s Cleaners you know.

Brown's Cleaners #7

Jack Avery established the business right after WW II.  Now, I have no clue who he was, and I’m sure there’s a story there, but I don’t know it, and this isn’t what today’s all about.

The Germantown staple known as Brown’s Cleaners changed hands a couple of times over the years.  Emery Moyer, again – no clue, and Boyd Askins – finally a name I recognize bought Mr. Avery out a few years later.   And eventually, Boyd bought Emery out.

So, why the heck is it called Brown’s, you might wonder.  Well, as she put it, Aileen Brown, opened her mouth and put her foot in it.  In 1968, Aileen bought the business from Mr. Adkins.  July 1st, to be exact, and it became what my generation and the rest following will forever remember as Brown’s.

Since that date, she’s gone through about 500-600 pounds of dirty laundry every week!

Located at 142 West Center Street, less than half a block from the Police Station, in case you get any ideas, the business has know the dirty laundry of Germantown for 45 years come this Summer.  It’s an integral part of the town, I mean, really, how many places have a 5 minute parking sign provided by the city?

Brown's Cleaners #2

Aileen (pictured below on the right) was born in 1937, and in 1968, at the age of 31, was a Germantown rarity: she owned her own business, she didn’t just run her husband’s!  A Germantown native, she’s lived her entire life in our tiny home town, and has been a familiar face at the drive UP window for as long as I can remember.

Phylis (Holbrook) Hess & Aileen Brown #2

She was also the first place in town to have a drive UP window!

As a small child, I remember going into the cleaners with Dad whose shirts were always crisp and clean. The smells and sounds were exciting to an inquisitive kid like me.  With five kids to bring UP, ironing wasn’t a priority with Mother, and Daddy being a bit of a dandy and wanting to look like the preacher he was, well, laundered shirts just fit the bill.

They were folded back then, stiff collars, neatly pressed and folded around cardboard linings that later made their way into every elementary class room on Comstock Street.  Fortunately, my paste eating creative arts days were passed when Daddy switched to hangers.

Daddy was a big fan of Aileen and her mother, “Brownie”, and their class A work. He never complained about his shirts, the work, or the prices.  It was the price you paid for looking good.  Mom sent them fudge.

As the years went on, Phyllis Hess, nee Holbrook, (pictured above on the left) was added to the crew.  She and Aileen have been friends and worked together for so long, neither of them could remember a date!

My sister, Zola went to see the two ladies, and told them that the folks in Germantown who read my posts were interested in the Brown’s story.

Seems the local business with the flowers out front is one that everyone in town needs.

Brown's Cleaners #3

She shared her memories about the cardboard sheets and all the crafts and Mother’s Day Cards they became.  Aileen had a story of her own, remembering that Jim Landis used the boards for his experimental planes.

Zola, who’s pretty inquisitive, wanted to know if there were any other stories to share, and Aileen had a few.

Seems a few gentlemen came through, emptied their pockets, literally dropped their pants…off for cleaning and drove home in their shorts.

Well we can all just say a prayer of thanks for automatic garage door openers, now can’t we?

There were a few who picked UP their laundry and got dressed for work right there in the car!

BTW, you can not only drop off your pants, Aileen is community minded, so you can drop off your old eye glasses for the Lions’ Club.

Browns sign

Hoping for a pearl of wisdom, Zola asked if she had a life’s motto.  She thought for a moment, and simply said, “Not really.”  Which, quite frankly, is a pretty good motto if you ask me!

She did say that her pet peeve is when people say, “I need this tomorrow.”, and then she doesn’t see them again for three months!

Pressing for more, my slightly assertive and perfect example of a middle child of a sister asked what made her decide to open a dry cleaning shop.

Aileen simply replied, “Well, I sort of opened my mouth and put my foot in it.”  It’s a good thing it was there, there’s probably a lot of dirty laundry around town!

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