Backstage on Broadway: Winzer Cleaners takes on Broadway’s dirty laundry

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Wash. Press. Fold.

It's a load of work at Ernest Winzer Cleaners in the Bronx.

“You’re surrounded by the Broadway costumes,” Bruce Barish, the owner, said.

From Phantom of the Opera to the River to Radio City, this place cleans it all“There’s nobody I know that can do what we do,” he said.

And they've been doing it since 1908, when Ernest Winzer started the company.

“My grandfather bought it in 1952 and he was doing the Broadway shows back then," Barish said. "My grandfather added retail to it and when my father came in we added a lot of leather and suede.”

For the 20 employees who work here, it's showtime all the time.

“My drivers pick up at night, they drop off here around midnight, and we start at like 3 in the morning on average," he explained. "[The shows we have that day] go back at lunchtime."

While speed is key, so is detail.

“[Shows] don’t have two sets of anything so when they drop them off we can't have broken buttons, they can't be poorly pressed and they definitely can’t have missing pieces," Barish said.

Which can be a lot of pressure, but it's eased by experience and having the industry's best equipment.

“Dry cleaning means there’s no water, they get wet with a solvent," he said. "So the clothes go in they get wet, they get cleaned and they’ll be dried before they come out. So when the clothes come out, they’ll be nice and fresh."

This includes costumes of all types of materials and even sequins.

All of which have been worn by some of Broadway's biggest names like Bernadette Peters, John Lithgow, Bradley Cooper and many more.

But it's downstairs at Winzer Cleaners where you'll find a little piece of Broadway history.

"This is where Broadway shows when they close sometimes and they don’t know what to do with it, they go to kind of hang out for a couple years!”

Stars. Sweat. Stains. Barish has experienced it all; it's been a lifelong passions. As for his favorite part?

"My grandfather never got to really see me doing it, I was just 15 years old when he passed," he said. "So it’s nice to know that he’s looking down on me everyday.”

As to whether this company will stay in the family, we'll let his wife answer that one.

“No [because] it’s not their passion,” Sarah Barish, Bruce's wife smirked. “My daughter wants to save the world and my son want to be a rockstar!"

 

PRODUCED BY: KIM PESTALOZZI

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