Community Rallies to Help St. James Dry Cleaners Stay Afloat

Community Rallies to Help St. James Dry Cleaners Stay Afloat

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Funds are being raised for St. James Dry Cleaners which has suffered financially during the pandemic. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Leah Chiappino

St. James Dry Cleaners, like most businesses, is struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. Melanie Bassi, the manager of the cleaners, said that during the past few months sales have dropped from around $16,000 per month to around $600 per month, a decrease of approximately 96 percent. Deemed an essential service by New York State, dry cleaners were able to stay open during the pandemic.

Looking for a way to save the dry cleaning service, Bassi started multiple online fundraisers. The community came through. A GoFundMe page, organized by the owner’s daughter, has since been deleted due to the fees the fundraising service charges, but raised $845. A Facebook fundraiser has raised another $228, so far. Bassi said that she has received $1,000 in donations from longtime customers and community members coming into the store to show their support.

The cleaners has been open for eight years and is owned by Peter Marinelli, who Bassi describes as an “old school” tailor, who has more than 50 years of experience.

“[Marinellii] is one of the most talented and selfless tailors there is,” Bassi said. “He’s just the nicest man. Everyone in the community loves him.”

To add to the business’ struggles, Marinelli has been in and out of the hospital, making the business’ daily operation even more difficult to manage.

“It’s just me and three part-time kids trying to keep this place afloat,” Bassi said.

Because they didn’t have updated bookkeeping to prove income, the cleaners did not qualify for government assistance or a payment protection program loan. Due to a dispute with Verizon, they were also forced to shut down their credit card machine and can only accept checks, cash or Venmo payments, adding to the business’ struggles. If the current sales stay the way they are, Bassi said she does not foresee the business being able to operate past the fall. They are looking to raise $10,000 in order to fully get back on their feet.

“From the bottom of our hearts, we are so grateful to the community,” Bassi said.

In the coming weeks, the dry cleaners is planning on having an outdoor fundraiser sponsored by a customer and several local businesses.