A Laundry’s Sudden Goodbye

Eddie Downes, left, a presser at East Hampton Cleaners for 30 years, and Grace LaBarbera, who has worked there for six years, are the only two employees remaining as the shop prepares to close at the end of the month. Durell Godfrey

The word came down right after Thanksgiving, and it was a complete surprise to Eddie Downes, a presser who has worked since 1988 at East Hampton Cleaners. He and the shop’s other three employees were told the store at 104 Newtown Lane is closing and is accepting no more work, effective immediately. Patrons need to pick up their cleaning by the end of the year, when the doors will be shut for good.

“People aren’t happy,” Mr. Downes said yesterday when asked what customers have said about losing a service that Mr. Downes said has been on the site since the late 1970s. “They like their cleaners.”

Patrons liked the convenience of having their cleaners right on a main drag in town. They liked the fact that East Hampton Cleaners washes everything, from shirts to sheets. They like the shop’s little idiosyncratic touches, like the tip jar sign that reads, “Tips are like hugs without all the touching,” and a plaque that reads, “I don’t sweat, I sparkle.”

Now, Mr. Downes and Grace LaBarbera, who has worked at the shop for six years, are the only staffers left. The other two left immediately after they were told the store is closing. 

Mr. Downes said the explanation they were given was that Ben Suglia, who also operates Mattituck Laundry, Greenport Laundromat, and a plant in Riverhead, “didn’t want to have the business anymore. And the property owner wants to sell.”

“So that’s why we’re at where we’re at today,” Mr. Downes said. “The property is not even listed for sale yet.”

Mr. Suglia was not available for comment yesterday, said an employee at his Mattituck location. 

Mr. Downes, who lives in Sag Harbor, and Ms. LaBarbera, who resides in Springs, said they were both offered positions at Mr. Suglia’s Riverhead plant, but they are unsure if they will accept.

Between now and the end of the year, they will be staffing the shop from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Ms. LaBarbera said she is calling some patrons to let them know they have items they need to pick up, but for the most part, “The word is out.”