N.Y. Dry Cleaner Offers Free Service To Job Seekers A sign in the window of First Professional Cleaners on the Upper East Side reads: "If you are unemployed and need an outfit clean for an interview, we will clean it for free." Owner Carlos Vasquez says the offer is a way to give back to the community.

N.Y. Dry Cleaner Offers Free Service To Job Seekers

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/102306375/102306355" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Now, we have an indicator of both unemployment and also human kindness. On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, there is a dry cleaner and in the window, the owner, Carlos Vasquez, put up a sign that reads, if you are unemployed and need an outfit cleaned for an interview, we will clean it for free. Carlos Vasquez joins us from his store. Hi.

Mr. CARLOS VASQUEZ (First Professional Cleaners): Hi, how you doing?

SIEGEL: That's a very nice offer. Are people taking you up on it?

Mr. VASQUEZ: Yes. Two people came in today, and I had also a phone call from a lady in the Bronx. She said that she just applied for public assistance and is it okay if she can bring in an outfit.

SIEGEL: What did you say? That's not exactly a job interview.

Mr. VASQUEZ: It's not a job interview but, you know, I could only do so much, but since I haven't gotten so, you know, that sign has been on for about eight years since 9/11.

SIEGEL: At a time when a lot of people were in great distress.

Mr. VASQUEZ: I lost a lot of customers at that time. And so, we figured we'll give something back to the community, something from the heart that we do, because we lost so many people, and a lot of people were unemployed at that time.

SIEGEL: Now, did the economy rebound sufficiently so that before this recession, you were doing good business on the East Side?

Mr. VASQUEZ: Yeah, I mean, as long as I was able to invest in my children's education, pay my bills and, you know, that's about all you can ask for, really, you know. Can you give me, like, a minute?


Mr. VASQUEZ: I can get this - I can get a few customers out of here.

SIEGEL: Okay, sure.

Mr. VASQUEZ: Is that okay? I'm sorry, 'cause (unintelligible).

SIEGEL: That's all right. Got to work, yeah.

Mr. VASQUEZ: Steve, that's 9.25.

SIEGEL: Here's what happens. As we're speaking, Mr. Vasquez is interrupted by some customers who come in, and among them is one customer, a woman, who saw a story about him on local television in New York and is coming to take him up on the offer.

Mr. VASQUEZ: Now that I'm cleaning your stuff, the next interview you go to, I'm sure you'll get it.

CHRISTINE: Yeah, I'm sure, too, thank you so much.

Mr. VASQUEZ: Okay, good.

CHRISTINE: When should I come back?

Mr. VASQUEZ: By Friday is okay?

CHRISTINE: That's perfect. Thank you so much.

Mr. VASQUEZ: Okay, great. Nice to meet you, Christine.

CHRISTINE: You too. What's your name?

Mr. VASQUEZ: Carlos.

CHRISTINE: Thank you, Carlos.

Mr. VASQUEZ: Thank you, Christine.

CHRISTINE: Nice to meet you.

Mr. VASQUEZ: Bye-bye, ma'am. Hello, I'm sorry. Hi, okay, I'm back.

SIEGEL: No. I'm getting the picture now. That the woman who just came in there lives 11 blocks away from your…

Mr. VASQUEZ: Yeah.

SIEGEL: And in New York, you know, that's about four dry cleaners away.

Mr. VASQUEZ: Yeah, there's plenty of dry cleaners.

SIEGEL: Yeah, that's a lot of dry cleaners.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. VASQUEZ: Yeah, a lot.

SIEGEL: So, you're attracting business from afar, by Manhattan standards.

Mr. VASQUEZ: Yeah.


Mr. VASQUEZ: That wasn't the idea when I put the sign up on the window.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: No, I don't think it was, was it?

Mr. VASQUEZ: I said it was for the community.


Mr. VASQUEZ: Give something back to my people.


Mr. VASQUEZ: For supporting me. It's hard running a business in New York City as it is. But I will fulfill as many as I can, as many as I can afford to and, you know, if I have to take it down for a little while and put it back up and then do it monthly, I don't know, whatever it takes so that I can feel good about it.

SIEGEL: Well, it's awfully good of you to make the offer to clean clothes for free for people who are unemployed, going on a job interview, and also very good of you to talk with us about it today.

Mr. VASQUEZ: Okay, great.

SIEGEL: That's Carlos Vasquez, speaking to us from his business, First Professional Cleaners, on East 72nd Street in Manhattan.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.