Havran Dry Cleaners closes after 70 years in Cortez

Family business flourished in a time when ‘everybody dressed up’

After 70 years, Havran Dry Cleaners will close when third-generation owner Bernard Havran retires. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/The Journal

After 70 years, Havran Dry Cleaners will close when third-generation owner Bernard Havran retires.

Havran Dry Cleaners took its last cleaning order on Saturday, after operating in Cortez for three generations.

Bernard Havran, the shop’s owner, has decided to retire and has not found anyone to take over the operation. The business, which Havran’s grandfather started in 1947, will stay open for a few weeks to allow customers to pick up their clothes. For many employees, former employees and customers, the closing marks the end of a Cortez institution.

“It’ll leave a gap in people’s hearts,” Havran said.

The business was born 70 years ago, when Havran’s grandparents, Frank and Hattie Havran, saw a “for sale” sign on the building at 18 N. Chestnut St. while driving through town and decided to buy it. Havran said they lived in an impoverished area of Texas and wanted to move somewhere better. Frank had already operated several business ventures in his home state, from owning a general store to selling moonshine during Prohibition. The dry-cleaning shop was successful enough for the Havrans to stay in Cortez the rest of their lives, and eventually pass on the business to their sons Benny and Norland.

Havran grew up around the dry-cleaning operation before eventually buying it from his own father in 1985. He said the business has changed drastically since his childhood.

“Back in those days, everybody dressed up,” he said. “Your business men, your bankers, your lawyers – everybody up and down Main Street had a suit and tie. So there was a lot of volume in those days for dry cleaning.”

Nowadays, he said, people don’t dress up as often, so dry cleaning has become a luxury. As washing and drying machines became more commonplace, and recently as the local economy worsened, fewer people made professional cleaning a priority. When Havran’s father ran the shop, it had 10 employees. For several years, Havran has been the only person who worked there full-time, and he employed one part-time presser.

But he has always had enough business to stay afloat, partly because of the numerous regular customers who brought their clothes in every week for years. Havran also specialized in cleaning Navajo rugs, which occasionally brought him business from outside the state. He cleaned altar cloths and vestments for local churches for free.

Many of his customers and former employees stopped by the shop during its last week just to say goodbye. Vicki Espinoza, who worked there on and off for about 10 years, said dry cleaning was as much a family business for her as it was for Havran. Her mother and sister both worked there as well, and her daughter grew up with fond memories of running through the rows of clothes as they hung up to dry.

“We just had fun all the time,” Espinoza said. “Bernard was so nice to us.”

Havran said he always thought of his employees as “family,” and admitted it will be difficult not to see them as often.

After his retirement, he plans to tour the United States, spend more time with his children and grandchildren and take up carpentry again. He doesn’t plan to sell the building anytime soon, but he said he’ll rent it out. His part-time employee, Jody Murphy, will continue to take ironing work on the side.

Dolores, Mancos and Dove Creek used to have their own dry cleaners, but Havran’s business outlasted them all. After it closes, Crystal Brite, which Espinoza started after she left Havran, will be the only place in Montezuma County for residents to get their formal wear cleaned. Havran said he’s pleased to have lasted longer than other dry cleaners in the area, and he’s proud of the connections he was able to make in the community.

“My biggest accomplishment is being here for my customers,” he said.

The inscription in the sidewalk outside Havran Dry Cleaners, which was put there when Frank Havran and sons Benny and Norland owned the shop. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/The Journal

The inscription in the sidewalk outside Havran Dry Cleaners, which was put there when Frank Havran and sons Benny and Norland owned the shop.

Jody Murphy works on a sweater at Havran Dry Cleaners. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/The Journal

Jody Murphy works on a sweater at Havran Dry Cleaners.

The old sign outside Havran Dry Cleaners. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/The Journal

The old sign outside Havran Dry Cleaners.