Normally a feature story is a human interest piece written after interviewing various individuals. Rarely does a feature story include the opinions or personal reflections of the writer. But there are exceptions, and this story is one.

When my editor asked me to write a feature story on the new allergy-free dry cleaning system at D&M Cleaners, I immediately said yes. I met Marty Moore back in the 80s when his wife and I both taught at Brown Middle School. Little did I know when I accepted the assignment that the minute I walked through the door of D&M Cleaners in Pharr, I would return to my childhood.

Newly cleaned slacks, dresses, suits and blouses hung from suspended rods that seemed to form a design within the store. An employee stood behind the counter just inside the door, waiting to greet customers dropping off or picking up the clothes they entrusted to their local dry cleaner. Behind the counter, brightly colored tags with large black numbers to verify the number of items the customer left to have cleaned rested in a box. Giant-sized washing machines and dryers, a rainbow of colors swirling around inside, stood against the walls.

I remembered countless days spent at Ardis & Son Cleaners in Peoria, Ill. Owned by my parents and grandparents, Ardis & Son was my home away from home throughout my childhood. As I stood there at D&M, I realized two things were starkly different. At Ardis & Son, heat radiated throughout the cleaning and pressing area and sweat glistened on the faces and necks of those working there. At D&M, cool air filled the entire facility. At Ardis & Son, the strong smell of chemicals wafted through the air, but at D&M Cleaners, the air seemed fresh and odorless.

After sharing my nostalgic moment with Marty, he led me to the back room. It, too, was cool and clean-smelling. I turned to the left and saw it, the Aero-Tech USA Green Jet, a state-of-the-art Dry-Wetcleaning™ system, the only one in South Texas.

“We installed it the last week of December,” Marty said. “In fact, instead of going out on New Year’s Eve, I was here.” (I quipped about how romantic it would be to spend New Year’s Eve in your dry cleaning business, but his excitement over this revolutionary way to clean clothing and other items took precedence.)

As soon as I saw the Green Jet, I noticed the two hoses running from the side of this cleaning monster to its face. To clearly explain how different the Green Jet is when compared to traditional dry cleaning machines, I turned to Aero-Tech’s website:

The Green Jet uses a unique jet air pulsating system to first dislodge loose dirt and soil from garments and de-lint them and then to jet spray DWX44, Dry-Wet Cleaning™ solution, permeating the garments, cleaning and freshening them. Specially designed filters and reusable “blotters” or pads in the machine scrub, attract and absorb the dirt and soil left.

The cleaned and freshened garments are then tumble-dried nearly wrinkle-free.??With Dry-Wetcleaning™, garments do not have to be transferred from a washing machine to a drying machine. The Dry-Wetcleaning™ process cleans all colors and fabrics in the same load. The start-to-finish process takes about 30 minutes per load and can handle most garments brought into professional dry cleaning stores.

From an ecological standpoint, the Dry-Wetcleaning™ process is both environmentally and occupationally friendly and promises no contamination of site or nearby occupancies. It is totally non-toxic (oral, dermal, inhalation), anti-odor, non-flammable, non-VOC, contains no hazardous air pollutants, is chemically inert, does not require labeling by OSHA and is RCRA and CERCLA non-regulated.

This is excellent news for people in the Rio Grande Valley who suffer from allergies. In fact, this all began when a lady from church approached Marty about a year ago and told him, “I’d love to have my clothing dry cleaned, but I am so sensitive to chemicals.”

Marty began researching the latest machines, trying to find one that would be the solution for people with allergies who needed clothing dry-cleaned. Along the way, he heard a story about how Jerry Lewis could never get his suits dry cleaned because of his allergies. The story goes that he would wear a suit a few times and then give it away because he couldn’t get it cleaned.Marty knew he hit gold when he found the mighty Green Jet.

This machine not only cleans clothing without chemicals, but it also cleans draperies, bedspreads, cushion covers, silk, lace, cashmere, velvet, certain leathers and beaded/sequined garments.

“Not only does it eliminate all odors,” Marty said. “Everything that comes out of it just smells…FRESH!” As an added benefit, colors don’t dim and fabrics remain soft.

That freshness affects the environment, as well, and this is important to Marty.

“This is just one example of our industry progressing and being innovative,” he said.

I returned to my reverie when he said this, wondering what my dad would think about this new machine designed for people with allergies that also ensures a clean environment. Although I was a child during the Ardis & Son days, I never heard talk about the importance of a clean environment both inside and outside the cleaners. Obviously, things have changed. According to Marty, the dry cleaning industry committed to finding the best ways to clean clothing and household items while protecting our environment.

“The secret of a successful dry cleaners is drawing out 100 percent of the solutions used,” Marty said. There are other secrets, too. “In this day and time, you better have quality and great customer service,” he said. I couldn’t help but think these secrets are the reason dry cleaners like D&M have survived and thrived over the years. D&M has been serving the Rio Grande Valley for 54 years. Marty has owned it since 1976.

Once local dry cleaners learn about new products and processes, they don’t keep it to themselves. Rather, they share it with others in the industry.

“We have a lot of good dry cleaners in the Valley,” Marty said, “and Bill Stocker (Palace Cleaners) and I try to serve as mentors. We team up to do seminars for others in the industry on customer service and other important topics.” People throughout the Valley recognize these two and their friend Tim Smith from KRGV-TV for the humor they exhibit while spearheading Tim’s Coats, a non-profit organization that provides coats to those in our community who would otherwise go without.

As my visit to D&M drew to a close, I thought about my dad and imagined him being able to tell his customers who suffered from allergies about his new Green Jet. Marty’s enthusiasm mirrored what I envisioned from my dad.

“I’m so excited because this finally gives people who are sensitive to chemicals an alternative to conventional dry cleaning,” he said.

Clean, chemical-free dry cleaning and an environmentally friendly result. No wonder the Aero-Tech website calls the Green Jet a technological and ecological breakthrough for the dry cleaning industry.