CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte dry cleaner said he’ll know the city is back on its feet after the COVID-19 pandemic when he’s cleaning 3,000 dress shirts a week.
Kemuel Murray, the owner of Morrison Cleaners and Alterations, said the fluctuating COVID-19 waves have wreaked havoc on his business.
What You Need To Know
- Charlotte dry cleaner says uptown corporations returing to the office will help revitalize area businesses
- Dry cleaner went from 3,000 dress shirts a week to 800
- Truist and Duke Energy recently announced delays to their return to office plans, another setback for local business owners
Just recently, delays of Truist and Duke Energy’s returns to the office provided another speed bump.
His business, located at 721 Governor Morrison Street, never heard the door open at some points last year, as customers were nonexistent.
“I would have maybe a customer show up, and I could go a day without anybody showing up,” Murray said about the worst of the pandemic last year.
At one point, Murray said the pandemic dropped his business down about 80% compared to usual trends.
“I was even at the point like, what can I do outside of being in the cleaners? Do I go back into teaching?” Murray explained.
The lack of business was scary for the former teacher turned business owner, especially knowing he needed to provide for his family, including his two teenage daughters.
“You expect things to go bad, or recessions, things of that nature, but not where everything just completely, the wheel stops,” Murray said.
Using his savings and government pandemic relief funds, Murray kept the business open. He was forced to let go of his part-time staff, but he refused to close. He worked long hours alone to keep the lights on.
“You just wish you would know, what’s next?” Murray said while folding shirts.
This summer, as vaccine distribution improved and COVID-19 appeared to be waning, Murray saw business improve, especially with travel clothing.
“Summer is always our slowest time. But this year it was one of our busiest times, which, that surprised me,” he said.
His business operations are back to about 70%, but with schools back in session, and the delta variant surging, he’s worried about tomorrow. Especially as some of Charlotte’s biggest businesses announce delays in their plans to return to Uptown offices.
“We were at one time doing 3,000 shirts a week, and now we’re probably around maybe 800?” Murray said. “Shirts were our main thing of business before the pandemic.”
Murray and other cleaners were counting on some of Charlotte’s biggest banks to return to the office, which meant business clothes from bankers would come back to dry cleaners.
“Just being a banking city, it moves everything. If the banker makes money then he spends his money at the next place and so on and so on,” Murray added.
A Bank of America spokesman said employees started returning after Labor Day, with a focus on vaccinated employees returning first.
However, Truist announced it was delaying employees returning to the office until October or early November. Truist said some employees, who already volunteered to return to the office, will continue working on-site.
In another blow, Duke Energy recently announced it was delaying its return to the office, with a phased reentry starting in October.
For Murray, the pandemic’s impact on business is a mixed bag. While his business suffered from a lack of its regular customers, particularly businessmen and women, he said he did benefit from other cleaners closing, especially in Uptown, who ended up referring their customers to his store.
“If I see more of these come in, then I know we’re there,” Murray said while folding dress shirts.
So, he’ll wait to see what the rest of 2021 brings and will be banking on the city’s business men and women.