The holiday season has ended.
There are still spots where rum punch, tomato sauce, mushroom gravy and red wine are flourishing. These spots are on ties, shirts, skirts and sports jackets — places where meatballs and deviled eggs made crash landings Christmas Day, places where Cabernet Sauvignon made splashes on New Year’s Eve.
Stephen Hartz can put in the fix. As principal laundry man at Hartz Family Cleaners in Schenectady, he has been cleaning and steaming clothing that people wrinkled and wrecked during the final days of 2012.
“The holidays are busy,” said Hartz, 49, who started the business on upper Union Street with his wife, Suzanne, in December 1999. “We clean up after the holidays. It’s busy in the weeks coming up to the holidays and the weeks after.”
“I just got in a skirt with gravy and vodka,” said Kathleen Gathen, who was running the front counter on Wednesday morning.
On the first work day of the new year, Hartz wore blue jeans, a light green- and pink-striped shirt and brown work shoes. Just about all the work is done on the premises. Some items, like leather jackets and suede and sheepskin boots, are sent to companies that specialize in such recovery projects.
At 10 a.m., Hartz walked from the front of the store — in a crowded block that also includes Homestyle Pizza, Musler’s women’s clothing and Scotti’s restaurant — and passed deep hampers that contained future work. Friday was a big take-in day; the hamper marked “Friday” was packed with a small mountain of shirts, trousers and sweaters.
Getting the wrinkles out
Hartz, a 1982 graduate of Linton High School who also served with the U.S. Navy, returned to his pressing concerns. A freshly cleaned navy blue Brooks Brothers suit jacket — pinstriped — was flat on a pad, and Hartz lowered a hinged top section. He covered a section of the garment; a few seconds worth of steam eliminated any wrinkles.
The room, in the rear of the store, was warm— about 75 degrees. Working with steam generates heat. During the summer, Hartz opens windows on the side and turns on exhaust fans to push hot air toward the front of the shop. “We’ve got shorts and short-sleeve shirts in the summertime,” he said. “It gets pretty warm in here. In the wintertime, we’re trying to hold the heat.”
At 10:05, he checked the basement. A load of laundry was tumbling in a tall, wide, commercial dry-cleaning machine. No Tide, Dynamo or Fab get near this thing. It runs on DF-2000, a petroleum-based cleanser marketed by ExxonMobil Chemical. Son Scott Hartz, 22, on holiday break from SUNY Plattsburgh, was working on spot removal near the commercial machine.
Seven pairs of pants and a navy blue New York Yankees baseball jacket inside the machine represented the morning’s special orders. People had dropped off the garments earlier that day and just had to have them back by late afternoon. “If it’s a national emergency, I’ll take them in a little bit later,” Hartz said at 10:09.
A fitting result
He waited for the machine to complete its cycle. He grabbed a blue-and-white striped, long-sleeved cotton dress shirt and pressed the cuffs and collars in a steam presser. Then he “fitted” the shirt over a dress form with front and back pressing plates. The sleeves were extended and secured, pulled tight and taut. Air billowed through the sleeves and the pressing plates advanced, toasting the shirt.
“Everybody likes the shirt machine,”
Hartz said. “Once they come off, they look pretty darn good . . . that’s about as crispy as it gets. In an hour, we can do 25 to 30.”
At 10:18, Hartz emptied the commercial cleaner and wondered why someone would need a rush job on a baseball jacket in early winter. “The Yankees aren’t even playing,” he said.
He said dry cleaners follow the same rules as do people who run Maytags and Whirlpools at home. Light and dark colors are washed separately — never reds with whites. “Mom always yelled at you when your underwear came out pink.”
He showed off a pair of tan Tommy Bahama silk pants. “Probably going on vacation,” he said. “I’m jealous.”
Hartz returned to his back pressing room at 10:25. Pants were scheduled for pressings in two machines, one designed for waist sections and the other primed for creases in the legs. Still to come was a set of room drapes, magenta decorated with green, purple and pink flowers.
“Those are a wrestling match,” Hartz said. “You have to move them around a lot.”
Wedding gown blues
But they aren’t the toughest jobs. Bottom sections of wedding gowns can collect dirt as brides walk in wooded areas for photographs and dance the night away. Beads and lace can take time to clean.
Ties aren’t all that bad. “The man’s portable napkin, we call them,” Hartz said. “People will bring in four or five ties at a time. The sooner they get them to the cleaner’s, the better off we are. We like things in as quickly as possible.”
At 10:32, Suzanne Hartz visited the pressing room. She had just returned from visiting the Kingsway and Glen Eddy senior homes, where she picked up comforters and clothing. Stephen Hartz continued pressing his special order pants, putting each pair on a hanger and putting each hanger on a pipe.
Hartz, who began his work shortly after 6 a.m., finished the seventh pair of pants at 10:41. He saw a small spot on a tan-colored pair — not the silk pants — and returned to his basement spotting station. Using a small pressurized gun, he hit a spot near the left pocket with steam and then with air. After 20 seconds, the stain had vanished.
At 10:53, back in the pressing room, Hartz began a job that would take a while. A woman’s dark brown topcoat was rolled and raked — with a lint roller and a small brush, respectively — and then pressed.
“These are a lot of work,” Hartz said. “I call them ‘jump-on’ coats because everything jumps on them, hair fuzz. As soon as you put them on a hanger, stuff will jump on.”
At 11, he was still working on the heavy fabric. “I’m going to be here for another 10 minutes,” he said. “It’s a wrestling match.”
“On the Clock” profiles people at work in the Capital Region by spending one hour with them on the job. Nominate a friend or co-worker by contacting Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.