JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Dry cleaner Demetrios “Jimmy” Kartsonis, who celebrates 50 years in the industry this month, has always had an industrious spirit. His work ethic and go-getter attitude helped him build a prosperous career in the drycleaning business, first in New York City and now in Jacksonville.
SAN JOSE SQUARE CLEANERS
Leaving his brother to operate the store in the Big Apple in 1978, Kartsonis set out to Jacksonville in search of a new drycleaning business opportunity. After making several trips from New York to Jacksonville, Kartsonis had discovered San Jose Square Cleaners, which he officially acquired in September 1978.
The store has gone through three renovations since then; it now processes about 1,800 shirts a week from the 1,560-square-foot business, according to Jimmy’s son, Athanasios “Tommy” Kartsonis, who now helps his father operate the plant.
“It’s very small, but … at one time [we were] doing 4,500 shirts a week [through wholesale work], so when you say you maximize space, you maximize space,” says the younger Kartsonis.
Though the store has faced many changes since, one constant remains—the sense of community and trust that Jimmy Kartsonis has been able to develop with his customers.
“When you have a customer for 20, 30 years, they’re not customers … we treat them like family,” he says. “When there’s a birthday [or] when there’s an anniversary that comes along, and we know about it, there’s a bottle of wine [for them].”
In looking back at the drycleaning industry as a whole, Kartsonis says it has changed for the better.
“As far as the EPA concerns, I’m glad they moved in and they did the clean-up,” he says, adding that he’s been able to reduce his store’s perc usage to about 25 gallons last year. “The industry is better. The materials are better.”
Though smaller operations face competition from larger franchise cleaners, the larger cleaners don’t offer the same level of customer service, he believes. “They don’t have the people to take care of the customers the way they should,” asserts Kartsonis, stressing that customer service and trust are important.
Looking back at his career, he says he would do it all over again.
“I have been enjoying it … I spent more time in the store than I spend with my wife, and I’ve been married for 46 years,” he says, playfully, adding that his spouse, Demetra, has been an instrumental part of his business success.
“I built this with my wife’s help. She was there every step of the way. She’s came in to help me sew, she’s came in to help me press,” he says. “She deserves more than I do.”
“Without the business … I cannot do the things that needs to be done,” he adds. “I have five grandchildren, and believe me, those are things that you enjoy.”
And as far as his advice to young entrepreneurs, or those looking to get into the industry, Jimmy says, “The drycleaning business, just like any other business, you have to put your heart and soul behind it. You have to be honest with [customers] and you’ve got to give them 110%.”