Dry cleaner offers first responders free services: Could others follow suit?

  • Jim Desjardins, owner of Daisy Cleaners in Salem, N.H., examines a firefighter's uniform. Tim Jean—

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 4/14/2020 9:22:38 AM

Since the end of March, Jim Desjardins, the longtime owner of Salem dry cleaners Daisy Cleaners, has been offering police, fire and ambulance workers along with nurses and doctors free cleanings of their uniforms at his business for the duration of the pandemic.

“I had spent the last two and half weeks with my head in the sand,” Desjardins said. “I couldn’t believe this is happening and I woke up that Monday morning determined to make a difference. … I’m actually Catholic but I pray every morning for God to help me to do one mitzvah, which is a Jewish term for a good deed.”

While it’s not immediately clear if other Granite State cleaners are following suit, at least one other dry cleaner in Houston is advertising the service.

Meanwhile, the dry cleaners, located at 160 Main Street in Salem, is offering free pickup and delivery in Salem and the surrounding area and also has a drive-through so patrons don’t have to walk into the business. The free uniform service would normally cost about $14 and involves two-day turnaround, Desjardins said.

The word has been spreading and more of these essential workers have been taking Daisy Cleaners up on its offer.

“I would say that we haven’t got any doctors, but we have started to get a flow of scrubs from nurses, and we’re getting a lot more police and fire uniforms,” Desjardins said. “We actually just picked up the Acton Police Department, the whole police department. … If I can help and I’m still eating … we’re going to continue to do this.”

Desjardins said the community response has been grateful. “I actually had a firefighter’s wife call who was actually so taken by the gesture she was crying. She was so touched by the gesture,” he said.

Before he began the free service he consulted with the national and state dry cleaning associations he belongs to in order to ensure he was following safety guidelines regarding COVID-19.

“The coronavirus doesn’t stick very well to fabric,” he said.

Desjardins said he has plenty of cleaning supplies, gloves and sanitizers at the store to keep it a safe environment for his workers, but he has also told any of his remaining staff that they don’t have to handle any item brought in that would make them uncomfortable.

“I would never want to put my staff at risk if they are not comfortable,” he said. “They can just save it for me.”

And he is encouraging people to use the drive-through or pickup service so that they don’t have to enter the building.

Due to the stay at home measures put into place and the current economic insecurity Desjardins said his business has plummeted. He has had to lay off most of his 10 full-time employees

“At this point I laid myself off too, I’m in here working for no pay,” he said. “We have a few key people working a few hours a day and we’re trying to maintain our normal business hours.”

He is hoping to use a payroll protection grant to bring back his staff, he said.

“The industry as a whole has taken a real hit. I think overall it is down over 80 percent,” he said.

And while it is unclear when business will go back to normal, Desjardins said he is going to continue to use the current situation as an opportunity to do some good because as he likes to say, “You can’t out-give God.”

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 


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