Greene’s Cleaners, the venerable dry-cleaning company in the Napa Valley, celebrates its centennial anniversary in April, marking a century of serving Napa residents.
“It’s a great place,” said customer Ben Bezayiff, who has been bringing his dry-cleaning to Greene’s for years. “It’s their professionalism that keeps me coming back. It is their welcoming demeanor and their quality.”
Greene’s began when the late George Greene opened his doors in 1919. Greene sold the store to Glenn and Helen Paulsen in 1957. The storefront was moved to Jefferson Street during their ownership.
The Paulsens retired in 1979 and sold the business to Peter and Terry Smith. During their ownership, the Smiths’ daughter, Laurie, worked at their Jefferson Street shop. She learned the business from the ground up. This is significant because when the Smiths were ready to retire, they approached Laurie and her husband, Alonso Corona, and asked the couple to buy them out.
The Coronas did and have been working since to bring this hundred-year-old business firmly into the 21st century. Alonso is president and CEO of Greene’s Cleaners, Inc. and Laurie is CFO and in charge of accounting.
Early 20th century Napa
When Greene opened his dry-cleaning doors in the early 20th century, Napa was a rough-and-tumble frontier town. The largest industrial companies were tanning factories that produced hides and tallow.
Napa’s second largest business back then was wheat processing. Both were dirty businesses, which helped create the need for a commercial cleaner. During this time, farmers and factory workers would need to have their jeans, belts, boots, and saddles cleaned. Victorian era men dressed in suits. Women wore ruffled dresses. All were difficult to clean at home with just an iron. So the population started to turn to commercial cleaners.
Fast-forward 100 years and Greene’s Cleaners prides itself on having close ties to the past as well as the present. During the 2017 wildfires, Laurie said, “Greene’s partnered with #NapaStrong and cleaned more than 5,000 pounds of donated items.”
Into the next 100 years But Laurie and Alonso Corona are not resting on their laurels; they actively plan and implement new operations they hope will keep the business open and profitable for the next 100 years.
Taking their cues from the past to march into the future, Greene’s recently expanded into Sonoma,
“It was a natural move for us,” said Alonso.
Greene’s also now services corporate accounts like hotels, B&Bs, wineries and restaurants. Greene’s commercial business specializes in guest room linens, event linens and large textiles such as drapes and rugs, as well as employee uniforms. Greene’s offers free pick-up and delivery, wedding gown cleaning and preservation, alterations, leather cleaning, area rug cleaning, and smoke damage and fire restoration cleaning.
“The decision to expand into Sonoma was made in large part because how successful the addition of full-time pickup and delivery services in Napa County to homes, offices and businesses between St. Helena and American Canyon has been,” said Alonso. “It was really not that much of a difference to add Sonoma County.”
To help accommodate their pickup and delivery service into Sonoma, Greene’s Cleaners’ Jefferson Street location will stay in place and its Silverado Trail facility will be expanded. Today, Greene’s is the largest volume dry-cleaning and laundry company in Napa County and one of the biggest in Northern California.
Greene’s operating process has also moved into the 21st century. Drivers use hand-held devices and apps to chart every stop they make and how long it takes. Cutting-edge computer systems track every single shirt, coat and dress and can pinpoint where every garment is located at any time during the cleaning process. This also drastically reduces the number of lost garments.
And Greene’s is now green. “We do not use the word ‘chemical’ when talking about dry-cleaning; we say ‘solvent’,” said Laurie. “The solvent we use has the best cleaning power. The best environmental reputation in the country.”