BALLSTON SPA – David Rickett has a long memory and a lot of fond memories of owning Rickett’s Laundry and Dry Cleaners with his sister Mary and their recent decision to close Rickett’s after 82 years in the family, brought up those memories.
“We were here before the world was started,” David said. “Eighty-two years is a long time.”
David said Rickett’s was started 82 years ago by his grandfather in his garage and is an interesting story.
According to the story, his grandfather was the conductor on a trolley back in the 1920s and saw a lot of steam coming out of a laundry that stood at was once known as Gray’s Corners, and is now where the Stewart’s is on the corner of Northline Road and Route 50.
“My grandfather thought that must be a good business to get into, they’re just wasting energy,” David said. “So he got into the laundry business.”
During the depression, his grandfather worked in Saratoga State Park under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program and they fired him because at the time David’s grandmother had a job at the knitting mill and only one household member could work under the program. It was at that time that the laundry business really took off.
He started by taking laundry in, then became a commercial laundry for hotels, restaurants, hospitals and then dry cleaning.
“But it was formed before washing machines were prevalent,” David said. “We were a family laundry for a number of years until the late 80s, early 90s, still doing people’s laundry. We were the dry cleaning and Laundromat ever since.”
David said the business was passed on to his father and uncle, and them to himself and his sister.
“Luckily my sister and I get along really well,” David said with a laugh.
Although Rickett’s Dry Cleaning officially closed July 31, the Laundromat is still open until the building is sold, and people can still pick up their dry cleaning through the month of August.
“It was a tough decision to make,” David said. “We have kept the community clean for over 80 years. Multi-generations have used us.”
David said he and Mary made the tough decision to close down and sell the building for two reasons. The first was that none of their children showed an interest in running the business.
“We knew this was a decision that was going to have to be made sooner or later,” David said. “We were thinking another couple of years, then we decided to do it now when we were young enough to pursue other ventures.”
David said he plans on starting a small handy-man business and his sister Mary will do bookkeeping.
When asked about the possibilities for the building when it is bought, David felt the building would probably be torn down and another business built on the spot.
“The dry cleaning business is not like it used to be and has decreased in volume,” David said. “Ten years ago most of our cleaning was ladies blouses and dresses that were made out of silk. Synthetic fabrics have made a big dent in the dry cleaning business.”
Also, the building is kind of challenging, having been built section upon section as the business grew and parts were added on.
David said in the early to mid-70s Rickett’s purchased the tannery that stood where the Angelica’s building is and moved the commercial aspect of the business down there, including the laundry.
“This was left just with dry cleaning at this location so half the building from the 70s on was basically unused,” David said. “The building got neglected and the only hope now is to tear it down.”
David said the community was none too happy when word got out that they were closing.
“I’ve had people get mad at me, I’ve had people cry, saying ‘You can’t do that’,” David said.
In spite of that, David has good memories of running the business.
“It always comes down to the customers,” David said. “We’ve done some memorable work for Saratoga. When the “Horse Whisperer” was being filmed in town we did an awful lot of work for them. Just the idea that you made somebody look good.”
David admitted to characters over the years, both good and bad over the years but declined to name names.
“There were some that you would dread to see and others that you would spend an hour talking to it seemed,” David said. “I’ve been at this full time for 35 years, so I’ve seen a lot of people come and go.”
David said he would miss the customers most of all when the business is closed down.
“We’ve had some very loyal people,” David said. “We had a lady come in today, she was upset because she’s been coming here since 1974, when she moved into the area. She’s always used Rickett’s, now she’s got to find someplace else.”
David anticipates a quick sale of the building, and said they’ve been told it’s a very buyable place. With the selling of the building, an era will pass that brought a community together by keeping them clean.
(All photos by Marci Revette/The Ballston Journal)
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