Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue Committee is cleaning the neighborhood’s dirty laundry in public–and employing four previously jobless community residents in the process.
The nonprofit, known for its housing initiatives, community economic development and workfare organizing, has entered the professional garment-cleaning business. On Labor Day, the organization will open an environmentally-friendly Ecomat franchise at 837 Union Street, that aims to tap the neighborhood’s wealth to benefit low-income Brooklynites.
“We start at $10,000 a month in sales and we hopefully grow to $30,000 to $35,000 a month over a three-year period,,” said Brad Lander, the group’s executive director. “By the end of year two, we hope to hit net profitability.”
Lander says he intends to eventually expand the operation, hoping to hire as many as 25 more employees. Workers’ wages will start at $7 an hour and include health coverage. Community Wetcleaners Inc. will open on a busy stretch of Union Street, across from the local food co-op. Ecomat, which operates five New York franchises, is known for its “wet cleaning” process that uses no perchlorothylene–“Perc”–a potentially carcinogenic toxin commonly used by dry cleaners which has been shown to cause respiratory problems.
The committee considers the business a model for small-scale job development targeting the entry-level workforce that will be created by tougher welfare laws. Diane Oliver, a new Ecomat employee, had been on public assistance since last winter. “I didn’t like sitting in my apartment for five months, waiting for that check to come every two weeks,” she said.