Beaverton dry cleaning business struggling due to pandemic
Near Southwest Murray Boulevard, you can find Harry Yu ironing a pair of jeans or pressing a shirt as the manager and owner of Oregon Dry Cleaners.
Since the coronavirus pandemic hit businesses back in March, Yu says he has seen a significant decline in business due to fewer people attending events or in-person meetings. Business is drying up — quite literally — and he hopes more help is on the way.
"I've been in business for 27 years," Yu said, "and it has never been like this. Business is bad. All I can say is, (we're) really struggling."
Yu remembers having to close his dry-cleaning business for a month in the spring. Once he opened back up, he limited operation to three days per week and was only open three hours per day.
Oregon Dry Cleaners is now up to four days per week, but Yu said he has yet to see more customers come by.
"I noticed many dry-cleaning stores are closing down," he noted. "They can't afford the rent, and they can't make it viable to operate. There's too much overhead. I don't know how we're going to last."
Yu said he has about 10% of the customers he had at this time last year.
As for sales, the business would make around $500 to $700 dollars per day pre-pandemic. With fewer customers, there's less money to be made, Yu explained.
"But now it's more like $50 a day," he said. "Sometimes, if I'm lucky, it's $100."
Yu added that he also had to layoff staff due to the economic impacts from the virus. When orders increased, he would usually hire more people to fill them on time, but that all changed when business wasn't booming.
Fortunately, Yu was given some federal dollars when things got tough. He was able to keep some employees on payroll with help from the Paycheck Protection Program, a $349 billion emergency loan program that was created by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
The program gives forgivable loans up to small businesses left financially distressed by the COVID-19 crisis, but that's enough to pay rent and overhead says Yu.
"If this disease stays longer, then we will have no way to stay open," he added.
Yu hopes the government can help small businesses — especially with expenses — so they can stay open. He says that dry-cleaning businesses can benefit the most from the added assistance.
"People are forced to stay home, and there's no way they are wearing nice clothes that need dry-cleaning," he explained.
But most of all, Yu's one wish is for the government to control the spread of the virus so everyone can benefit, both personally and professionally.
"That's all I could ask for," he said. "Then everybody could go to work, and business would pick up once again."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.