Our Town is celebrating our 45th anniversary by profiling a neighborhood business that has been around longer than we have. Know of a local business that should be on our list? Email us at email@example.com
On any given day, a dozen washing machines whir and eight dryers whirl at Royal Sutton Cleaners on First Avenue. If dropping off or picking up clothes doesn’t sound like the most thrilling part of one’s day, owner Anthony Giaimo can make it a memorable visit with passionate disquisitions about the most recent Republican debate, or “the good ol’ days” when sports stars such as New York Ranger Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert and Art Shamsky, a member of the 1969 New York Mets, lived mere blocks away and were regular customers.
Since 1959, three generations of Giaimo men have kept Upper Eastsiders in clean duds. First, Anthony, who was followed by his son Joseph, and lastly, Anthony, the younger, joined the family business in 1982. “To be honest, I needed a job ... I was getting married,” the younger Giaimo said. Giaimo, who prior to teaming up with his dad and grandfather worked in construction, adds that he “sorta fell into it as it was not something I was necessarily dying to do.”
Anthony Giaimo grew up with his parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents, all of whom lived in apartments right above the store. After moving around a bit, he returned to the dwelling above store with his wife in 1985. Those arrangements might have made the commute an easy one, but they could and did lead to many a sleepless night. “People, knowing where we lived, would ring our bell all the time, day and night ... .They needed their clothes for work, and we’d always take care of them,” Giaimo recalled.
Initially, Royal Sutton, just south of 63rd Street, was a drop-off only service. Since the mid-1980s, at the behest of the youngest Giaimo, Royal began taking in dry cleaning as well “Figured we could bring in more money,” he explained.
After over 30 years of working in the same location, Giaimo takes pride in what he calls Royal Sutton’s “personal touch,” whether a customer has been coming since the early 1980s, is new or even just visiting the city.
Giaimo has put three children through college and while, at 57, he’s in no hurry to retire, he’s nevertheless fairly certain the longstanding business will end with him. His children, he said, have other interests. “Three generations is pretty good, but that will be it,” he said.
And although Giaimo has lived on Long Island for many years he still has a strong attachment for the block on which he has lived and/or worked for over 40 years. “Of course, I love this neighborhood. I was born in this building. All my roots are here,” he said.
Right now is pretty good too.
“I’m happy and gonna stick it out,” he said.