After 41 years, the longtime owner of Europa Cleaners in Pelham Gardens has retired.
Though he will remain at the store to help the new owner, Vincent Zeppieri, who also owns American Cleaners and Tailors in Throggs Neck, ‘leaving’ the store has been an emotional time for 84-year-old Ciro Giuliano and his family.
When Ciro immigrated from Rome, Italy to New York at 24-years-old, he did not have much money or know the English language but he had a big dream.
In 1977, at the age of 43 he opened his dry cleaners on Eastchester Road in Pelham Gardens, alongside his wife, Anna.
“I dedicate all of this to my wife,” said an emotional Giuliano in an interview with the Bronx Times on June 28, just days before he officially handed the keys over to Zeppieri.
He explained his wife, Anna, who passed away nine years ago, was a big part of Europa Cleaners success through the decades.
Since the cleaners opened, his business’ services have become more than a community staple and his tailoring considered a work of magic.
After announcing his retirement plan, many of his customers came by to say thank you and bid him farewell.
“The neighborhood changes, people come and go, but we remain,” said AnnMarie DiMartino, Ciro’s only child who has also worked at the cleaners most of her life, eventually bringing on her husband Gary to help out in the store, as well.
“Everything comes to an end, that’s part of retirement,” continued DiMartino as she consoled her still emotional father.
One of Ciro’s most notable memories came after the September 11 attacks, when FDNY Engines 38 and 51 wanted to sew a special patch onto their uniforms in honor of a firefighter they lost.
“I sewed on all the patches and never charged even a penny,” recalled Ciro, who said those FDNY companies still invited him to picnics and barbecues, greeting him almost every time they pass his store.
While not all of his work was for a cause as important as that, the stories contained in the walls of Europa Cleaners, are etched ever so cleverly in Ciro’s, AnnMarie’s, and Gary’s minds.
“There was one lady who came in here so my father could fix her bras” recalled AnnMarie as she laughed with her father. “My mom didn’t like it at all and she would get so mad.”
Another time, he helped tailor the bathing suit for a gentleman who went on to compete in and win a male beauty pageant, many of whom said won because he was blessed by Ciro.
Certainly his legacy of hard work, opening almost every single day regardless of weather, traffic, or illness, will be hard to duplicate.
But the new owner, Vinny, said he promised to continue the hard work Ciro and his family put into the cleaners every day for the last 41 years.
Zeppieri said Ciro and his family approached him about taking over the business when Ciro decided he was ready to retire.
Zeppieri promised not to change the shop’s name, but has modernized the cleaners with new technology to fit the new age of business.
Europa Cleaners now accepts credit cards and has a computer to print out receipts.
“We just want to say thank you to all our customers and wish Vinny good luck,” added DiMartino in parting.