Owning and operating American Cleaners on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain represents the realization of Anna's American dream. It is a dream she made real after decades of hard work, risk taking, and a lot of help along the way. Anna’s path has not always been an easy one, but her many struggles have made it all the more gratifying to be where she is today. Anna loves everything about her business, which provides a much needed service to area residents. She loves interacting on a frequent basis with the people who come into her store and considers many of them to be friends. She was particularly touched by the outpouring of concern and tangible support that came from her customers during the downturn in business activity that followed the onset of the pandemic.
Anna first came to the United States more than 30 years ago from Guatemala and quickly found work as a dressmaker in a big factory, making dresses, suits and army uniforms. She worked for twelve years straight, laboring 7 days a week and 12 hours per day. Her bosses were husband and wife whose business operated in several locations and who took notice of what a dedicated and hardworking employee Anna had proven to be. One day, one of my bosses said, "Anna, we are opening a new store in JP and we want you to be our partner." Anna recalled. Anna was ready to take the risk and to bring her career to the next level. "I put all of the money that I had been saving for 12 years into this business so that I could be their partner. This is my story."
Twelve years ago, Anna's partners came to her with another business proposition. American Cleaners had expanded to seven locations and the partners were now seeking to sell their share of all of their stores individually. They approached Anna with the idea of buying them out of the Jamaica Plain store and becoming its sole proprietor. It was a big step for Anna and required her once again to invest all of the money she had carefully saved in order to make the deal work. She knew how to operate most aspects of the business but running it all by herself was initially the source of some anxiety, until her partners convinced her that she was up to the task. Anna has never looked back and never regretted her decision. Working tirelessly and with success her only option, Anna worked harder than ever and the business continued to thrive.
And then came Covid, which was like a meteor that struck the entire dry cleaning industry, including, of course, American Cleaners. "During Covid, customers didn't bring me clothes because they didn't go to work. I lost 90% of my business,” recalled Anna. "My customers tried to help me every way they could. They made a Go Fund Me page. Everyone contributed and they raised $15,000 for my business." That was just one way that Anna's customers came to her rescue. Another customer who had been coming to the store for years, helped Anna secure a small business loan. The assistance didn't stop there either. Yet another customer made Anna aware of a government grant for women with small businesses which she was successful in being awarded.
Though Anna’s volume of business has not yet reached pre-pandemic levels, activity has bounced off of the lows she experienced in 2020 and 2021. You won’t sense even a hint of worry when you come to visit Anna in her shop. You are always greeted with a warm smile and an inquiry about how your family is doing. You don’t have to ask Anna, she’ll tell you: “I love my job. I love Jamaica Plain. I want to be here forever.”