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Taken to the cleaners: COVID-19's impact on dry cleaners

One dry cleaner says business dipped 75% during the pandemic because more people are working from home.

HOUSTON — Clothing conveyors are still moving inside Oaks Cleaners on Westheimer. But business has been anything but brisk.

"When the pandemic struck back in March, we were down about 70%, 75%," owner Rahim Maknojia said.

Maknojia said frontline workers initially got free cleaning just so his workers could stay busy even though the business itself was barely getting by.

"So, it’s been up and down," Maknojia said. "And this month, it doesn’t look too good.”

Dry cleaning sales dropped an average of 80% nationwide at one point during the pandemic. That’s according to a company that provides software for the industry.

Meanwhile, the Dry Cleaning and Laundry Institute continues to offer resources and advice, like how to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program.

Maknojia doesn’t see things picking up tremendously until people are back in their work clothes.

"You know, just like you and I can talk over Zoom, everybody else is working from home," Maknojia said. "So, therefore, the first thing they’re going to cut is their dry cleaning.”

Thankfully for his employees, none of their jobs have been cut thus far.

"Right now, we’re open, we’re healthy," Maknojia said. "I think that’s the blessing for all of us.”