Park Slope

Then & Now: Dry Cleaning At 401 5th Avenue


Kleen Rite via Brooklyn VIsual Heritage

Years before Dun Rite Cleaners started dry cleaning local suits and sweaters at 401 5th Avenue, Kleen Rite French Dry Cleaners was offering the same services from the same spot– as revealed in this picture from Brooklyn Visual Heritage.

Dated June 15, 1959, the photo shows the former tenant with window adornments and a billboard on the side (though the billboard looks like it may be advertising milk). Here’s what the corner looks like now:

Dun Rite Cleaners

As it turns out, the dry cleaning industry took a bit of a hit in the 1950s with the development of synthetic blends and “wash and wear” wardrobes. According to a New York Times piece from April 26, 1959 (subscription required), some “delighted” housewives were happy to drop dry cleaning and laundry costs, and reported that “washing them is not all that difficult, and the ironing, if necessary, does go by quickly.” Of course, the dry cleaners were quick to adapt and offer wash-and-wear services themselves; the Times notes a flyer sent to husbands reading, “Send us your wash and wear…the wife you save may be your own.”

And somehow the industry (and housewives) survived: these days women and men can dry clean a dress shirt at Dun Rite for $5.

1959 photo via Brooklyn Visual Heritage

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