Eugene dry-cleaner suited to help job-seekers

EUGENE — After graduating from Brigham Young University and then ceaselessly searching for a job for four months, Matthew Johnston was at a loss.

And to make matters worse, his suit was far from being in pristine condition.

After hitting the pavement hard, Johnston said, his light gray suit looked as worn out as he felt.

"It needed cleaned," Johnston said.

He didn't have a lot of extra cash lying around to pay for things such as dry cleaning, he said, but he decided that investing $20 to get his suit cleaned would be a good use of his limited funds.

That's when he noticed a sign in The Cleanery's Santa Clara store window; "Free suit cleaning for anyone interviewing for a new job," it read.

"I was kind of skeptical, but I brought the suit in anyway," Johnston said. "I figured it might not be a hoax and if it was, I really needed my suit cleaned anyway."

As it turned out, the sign wasn't a gimmick.

"I can't even describe how nice it felt to know everything was tidy," Johnston said. "I even told them that I could get proof that the cleaning was for an interview, but they took me at my word."

The Cleanery's owner, Ron Bowker, said that the idea to grant job hunters a little extra help came from the National Dry Cleaners' Association just a little more than a year ago.

Bowker said he read an article in the association's trade publication about a dry cleaner in New York who started offering clients a break on suit cleaning during the recession.

Bowker promptly started a similar program at his three businesses. Since then, he said, the program has helped 15 to 20 job-seekers every month.

"I immediately thought, 'Wow, we need to do that here,' " Bowker said. "It's a feel-good thing. It is a simple thing and it has the ability to help somebody else."

Bowker said that The Cleanery has attracted a few new clients while doing good. But financial gain isn't what motivated him, he said. "It is such a little thing for us that can be a huge thing for the recipients."

For some, such as Preston Barrett, the suit cleaning has even opened the door to a new job.

Barrett was unemployed for eight months after being laid off from his job at an electronics company.

He had applied for 45 jobs when he saw The Cleanery's advertisement.

After he got his suit cleaned, he said, he interviewed for, and got, a job in sales for a company in Arizona.

"I was so thankful. I really didn't have extra money to spend on dry cleaning," Barrett said. "Having a clean and pressed outfit and looking good is so important. They really helped me out at The Cleanery."

Bowker said anyone who doesn't think a clean suit can lead to a fantastic job should look no further than one of The Cleanery's celebrity clients.

"We clean (University of Oregon coach) Chip Kelly's clothes, and we know it works because he has a job."

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