LAS VEGAS — Melvin “Mel” Shapiro, a retired veteran of the drycleaning industry, died Aug. 26 at the age of 83, American Drycleaner has learned.
He was born April 26, 1930, in New York City. Growing up in Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn, Shapiro spent much of his youth perfecting his stand-up comedy. In 1947, he won the coveted Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts Award, propelling him to tour the country’s comedy clubs. He enlisted in the Army and became part of USO shows, doing TV and live shows for troops during the Korean War.
Later, Shapiro and his brother, Phillip, decided to move west to build a business for their new families. They settled on buying a small, single Las Vegas dry cleaner called Al Phillips The Cleaner and moved their families to the city in 1964.
Over the next 36 years, the Shapiros developed the company into a drycleaning legend, creating the first “car hop drive-thru” that then became the busiest cleaners in the world, servicing 75% of the Las Vegas community, with numerous locations throughout the city. The company’s commercials featuring the Shapiros and various Las Vegas celebrities made them local celebs in their own right.
The Shapiros sold Al Phillips The Cleaner in 1984 to a public company, but stayed on to run it for many years. Phil Shapiro died in 1999. Mel retired from the business in 2000.
Also preceding him in death were his parents, and another brother, Milton.
Surviving him are his wife, Florence; three children, David Shapiro, Barbara Owens and Daniel Shapiro; a sister, Florence Sokoloff; a brother, Patrick; two grandchildren; and many more family members.
Memorial donations made payable to “Keep Memory Alive” and noted “in memory of Mel Shapiro” may be made to the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas.