By Thomas Sellers Jr.
One of the havens for training was Millington, Tenn. And residents in the small town located in the Southwest corner of the state were developing businesses to accommodate the soldiers.
Over the next 15 years, Flag City became home to establishments like the longest running family-owned business in Millington Jones’ Orchard, Roland’s (almost 55 years), Boatwright’s (more than 60 years) and Millington Cleaners. Hudson Farris opened up his business at 5135 Easley Street in 1946 and now his daughter Donna Percer still helps operate the second longest family-owned operation in Millington.
“I think it was March of that year Daddy opened it,” Donna Sr. recalled. “He had two partners, Mr. Dallas and a Mr. Pruitt
“This is where it was started,” she continued. “In the end of the 1940s he bought Dallas out. And in the 50s he bought Mr. Pruitt out and became the sole owner.”
Millington Cleaners mission to provide quality service at a reasonable price helped it survived competition like Liberty Cleaners over the years. Farris bought out them in the 1950s.
“My Dad opened this in 1946 and the base was already opened,” Percer recalled. “During post World War II, the base was thriving as a place to teach young men how to be war pilots. We used to park out there at night and watch them train those young pilots.”
Percer’s happy memories of the business enjoying comfortable times are accompanied by those days when it became a challenge to operate.
“My Dad had already been in the cleaning business for several years before he opened this one,” she noted. “That’s the reason he knew what to do.”
Farris taught his family how to meet regulations, use the cleaning materials, how to process clothes and what treatments to give certain fabrics.
Now the tradition continues with owners Bobby and Donna Jr. The couple handle the daily operations of the business alongside Bettie Fitz who has been a Jackie of all trades in the cleaning industry. Also on staff are Erin Maddox and LaToya Draine.
“We’ve been able to survive because it is family-owned and family-operated, that has been the key,” Donna Sr., said. “We’ve had others come and go. The ones like Walter Johnson at Jet Way and Navy Road were family owned. They survived for a while.”
Millington Cleaners survived solid competition, the energy crisis of the 1970s, recessions and the Navy Base closing. Now the business located just over the railroad tracks on Easley is an institution in Flag City filled with history, tradition and friendly conversation.
“I think the success of this business is being family ran and family operated,” Donna reiterated. “We know most of our customers. I’ve known most of them since they were kids. We just want Millington to flourish.
“We’ve learned in recent months there is no cleaner from here to Ripley, Tenn,” she added. “So we’re staying very busy these days.”
Percer said Millington Cleaners uses old-school methods to give clothes quality treatment. The staff makes sure all stains are gone and no button is missing.
“No. 1 reason to use a cleaner, it preserves your clothes,” she concluded. “Most people buy wash and wear. But you’re going to have to replace those clothes every year or so. With the dry cleaners, it preserves the color, keeps from stinking and in this day and time there are very few who wash and iron at home.”
Millington Cleaners is located at 5135 Easley and is opened Monday-Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 872-3113.