A spotless record is the aim of any dry cleaners, and that is certainly the ambition of Tony Chimen, the owner-operator of Hamylns Exclusive Dry Cleaners of East Sheen.
Hamlyns have built an enviable reputation after more than 20 years at their Upper Richmond Road premises. Throughout the years Hamlyns has become popular with locals, some of whom have become close friends.
Tony knows what he is doing having started in the trade 34 years ago and he even met his wife, Dawn, in the dry cleaning business. Dawn has been a silk-finisher for 31 years.
The first task is to remove any spots or stains from items which have been brought in for dry cleaning. Tony has a collection of specialist stain removers which can usually remove the most common stains like tea, coffee, and even red wine if the fabric allows.
After the items have been pre-spotted they are then put into the huge dry cleaning machine which takes pride of place in the rear of the premises. A chemical solvent is used which evaporates so quickly that there is no shrinkage or colour loss – a big advantage over water washing.
The whole process is very strictly controlled with rules and regulations to prevent damage to the environment. “The waste solvent is extremely toxic, has to be stored in special drums, and disposed of properly,” he explains. “We are inspected every year by Richmond Council and can only operate if we pass their tests and get a permit.”
Tony is one of only two businesses in Sheen who do their dry cleaning on the premises and thereby control the process – the rest send their clothes away to be cleaned under contract.
The next important stage is the finishing and Tony has various machines which are used for this. “Dawn is very skilled at this, particularly finishing items made of silk,” he says. “We clean lots of wedding dresses and she handles all of them, as well as ball gowns and evening wear where the final appearance is crucial.”
To the delight of many brides, wedding dresses are carefully placed after finishing into a beautiful storage box.
Tony stresses that customers need to have confidence in their dry cleaner when entrusting them with expensive and cherished items of clothing. “Some of our customers who have moved out of the area often return to have their clothes dry cleaned,” he says proudly. “Also many of the celebrities who live locally use our services.”
Hamlyns also do a fantastic hand-finished shirt service on the premises. Shirts can either be returned folded or on hangers.
The most expensive item Tony was asked to dry-clean this year was an exclusive wedding dress which cost £9,500.
“Trade has definitely gone up this year,” he adds. “I’m so glad we are busy again because during the recession times were difficult. People saved money by cutting back on their dry cleaning, but the future now looks much better.”
Hamlyns, 197 Upper Richmond Road West, SW14 8QT, Tel: 0208 8780175
Words by Mark Dowdney – Pictures by Bob Lisney – Project Coordinator Richard Osborne