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Dry-cleaning business offers unexpected economic indicator

Gauging the health of the economy by the number of dress shirts at the cleaners. Producer Elizabeth Withey takes you inside a Calgary dry cleaning plant.

Tower Cleaners is the biggest independent dry-cleaning business in Canada

Tower Cleaners' plant in southeast Calgary is almost 1500 m. sq. [16,000 sq. ft.] Owner and CEO Tony Stephen says it is one of the most automated dry cleaning facilities in North America. (Elizabeth Withey/CBC)

When Tower Cleaners first opened in Calgary in 1978, the dry-cleaning business had one location in a downtown office tower — hence the name.

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Things have changed significantly for the dry cleaner over the decades. Today the company owns 25 locations in the city.

But COVID-19, with its empty downtown office towers, the rising number of people working from home and the cancellations of practically every dress-up event has put the company in a tricky spot.

CBC Radio producer Elizabeth Withey stopped by Tower Cleaners' plant in south-east Calgary and spent some time with owner and CEO Tony Stephen, to find out what the dry-cleaning business can tell us about the economy.


Click "listen" at the top of the page to hear this segment, or download the Cost of Living podcast.

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