Brothers Don and Dale proudly operate this third-generation, local family cleaners in the same Gentilly neighborhood their grandfather, Louis Young, first opened more than 79 years ago in the old Baltazor Building.
In the 1940s, the streetcar line used to roll down Elysian Fields to the Lakefront where decades before the jazz clubs of Milneburg were red-hot and the steamboat Mandeville would often dock. The Princess Washateria, which used to stand at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Filmore in Gentilly, had recently become Young’s Cleaners. It was there, after a short stay on Dreux Street, that Louis “Buck” Young and his wife Marguerite “Margie” Young, spent their days laundering fatigues from the nearby Army Air Base that would later be renamed the Camp Leroy Johnson Naval Air Station. In those days, Franklin Avenue and Filmore were both dirt roads, but Young’s future was bright.
In 1960, the Young’s daughter, Judy, married Ronald “Ronnie” Velez. It was shortly before the ceremony that Ronald quit his job as an insurance salesman. Louis told his potential son-in-law, “Get a job, or don’t get married.” So Ronald took Louis up on the offer. He went to work for Young’s and married Judy that very same year. Margie worked the counter, while Ronald and Louis cleaned and pressed clothes. When Louis retired, after 40 years in the business, Young’s was handed over to its second generation of New Orleans ownership.
Years later, Ronald would often tell his sons (Don and Dale) to run across the street to The Po-Boy Bakery (formerly The Bakery) and get themselves a donut and milk. The boys wouldn’t start working at Young’s until they were 15 years old, but even at the end of their daily walks from St. Raphael School, Young’s neighborhood cleaners was a huge part of their lives. Just like Louis Young before him, Ronald Velez retired after 40 years at the family-owned business, handing Young’s to his sons, Don and Dale Velez. The brothers’ grandmother, Margie never retired. She worked at Young’s until 2000.
The Velez brothers continue to carry on family traditions begun more than 70 years ago. It is this legacy, along with the foundations of hard work, innovation, and perseverance that wouldn’t let Young’s succumb—even after Katrina had destroyed everything in 2005. One year later, the Uptown location on S. Claiborne Avenue was reopened, and in 2007, as if to thumb their noses at everyone who would have them give up on the city, Don and Dale opened a brand new Young’s Dry Cleaning on Harrison Avenue in Lakeview. The brothers are proud to operate this third-generation family business, whose headquarters are still located on the very same block as their grandfather, Louis Young, first established it in 1940.