‘It wiped me out’: After 38 years, Chilean immigrant owner of dry cleaning business in trouble
It only took weeks to unravel what an immigrant from Chile spent his livelihood creating in Wall Township, after nearly four decades in business. The coronavirus pandemic put an immediate halt to the dry cleaning and tuxedo rental business.
Pat the Tailor helped make three generations look good, but that may all end because of COVID-19.
“We lost also the schools, closed for prom season and wedding season and the dry cleaners because people don’t come for cleaning things, they stay home,” says Pat Villarroel.
A reality has set in for the owner and his wife, Omaira -- despite being deemed an essential business, the lights remain darkened inside the showroom, a small effort to save whatever money he can on electricity.
“I leave the lights off to save money,” says Pat. “All of this is completely out. As you can see, nobody comes, the empty spaces outside.”
They've exhausted their loans, PPP monies, and if a new loan doesn't get approved soon, Pat says after 38 years, his tailor business will be over.
“It wiped me out. Yes,” says Pat. “Although we have a few grants and the PPP and the whole loan from ACA, it's not enough because people don't come to pick up clothes from here. In March, the end of February and March, they don't come and pick up, so it's very hard.”
Pat says the dry-cleaning side continues to suffer because why would anyone need a pressed suit and shirt for a Zoom call from home. Pat says he has the funding to stay open through the end of the year, but without a loan and without any changes with COVID-19, there's simply no way he can survive another prom less spring.
The small, yet successful, shop for 38 years in the Colfax Plaza could very well become another victim of the pandemic.