When Throggs Neck native and resident Wally Santos opened his first Wholesale Cleaning Outlet dry cleaners on East Tremont Avenue in September 2009, it was one of the most nerve-wracking days of his life.
“I remember how scared I was,” Santos said. “That first day, I made $12.”
Things have only improved since that day for Wholesale Cleaning, and on Tuesday, July 12, Santos opened a second location at the corner of Philip and Vincent avenues. He chose the location due to its residential setting, as opposed to the commercial strip where his other store is located.
“Tremont is a main thoroughfare. I was getting customers from all over,” Santos said. “I was getting a lot of people from Edgewater and Silver Beach, so this is going to be more of my neighborhood store.”
Before getting into dry cleaning, Santos owned a Kirby Vacuum franchise, and was a union carpenter. He opend a dry cleaners because he was tired of the high prices being charged by similar business and felt like he could beat them.
“I took a suit to get cleaned and I was charged $12 bucks,” he said. “I said ‘I think I can do this, do the same kind of cleaning and give my neighbors a good price.”
Santos also thinks being from the area has helped him establish his business.
“People recognized that I was a neighborhood guy,” the St. Frances de Chantal alum said. “So my friends that didn’t leave the Bronx would say ‘Oh, Wally opened a cleaners.’”
He also made sure to add a personal touch with customers.
“The reason the first store was a hit was partly because I remembered all the customers’ names and I was friendly, plus people were looking for a bargain,” he said.
Both locations are open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Santos has three employees at his East Tremont location, but so far has manned the Philip Avenue spot mostly himself, although he will occasionally get someone to cover for him on Friday evenings so he can take a trip to Queens to watch his Mets play.
It’s also a family affair. Santos’ 21-year-old son Justin helps out with deliveries.
“We’re eco-friendly, family-run, which I think are both very important,” he said.
Santos hopes to open more cleaners in the Throggs Neck/Country Club area in the near future.