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Falls City Family Stays Busy With New Business Venture

DALLAS -- He's an assistant principal, high school teacher and coach. She coordinates an after-school activities and enrichment program and serves as a small-town mayor.

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Art and Amy Houghtaling, along with their daughters Amara (left) and Amber, took over Dallas City Cleaners in January when former owner Robin Petchell retired.

DALLAS -- He's an assistant principal, high school teacher and coach. She coordinates an after-school activities and enrichment program and serves as a small-town mayor.

And now in their "spare" time, Art and Amy Houghtaling own and operate Dallas City Cleaners.

The dynamic duo from Falls City took over ownership of the dry cleaning shop in January after former owner Robin Petchell retired. Dallas City Cleaners will celebrate its grand reopening Saturday.

Working in the shop was Amy's first job after her family moved to the area from Southern California in 2006.

Art had begun working for the Falls City School District, but Amy hadn't found a job yet.

Soon an opportunity presented itself.

She stopped in to Dallas City Cleaners to drop off a dry clean-only comforter when she noticed a sign saying, "due to a family illness the business would be closed Saturdays."

Needing a part-time weekend or evening job, Amy volunteered to help out. In a "welcome to Polk County" moment, Petchell took her up on the offer on the spot - without asking for an application or resume.

"He said, `Well that would be great. You can come in next week and start training,'" she recalled. "I came in the next week and trained and started working on Saturdays."

Eventually, she was helping out more during the week and Petchell trained her to run the business in his absence.

Amy said she and Art had planned to buy the business from Petchell when he retired, but figured it wouldn't be quite so soon.

Amy had hoped to wait until after stepping down from Falls City School District's FACES after-school program at the end of this school year. But Petchell decided 2012 was his last year.

Art was unfazed, even though it would require learning to use all the dry cleaning equipment in a short time.

"I'm the guy who likes to do laundry," he said, noting he loves it when customers bring in an item they think is impossible to clean and it ends up spotless when they pick it up.

He pleaded his case to Amy that the cleaners would make a great family business and second career - and would provide guaranteed jobs for their daughters.

Amy, not quite convinced at first, eventually came around.

"I'm spoiled," she said. "I haven't worked a full-time 8 to 5 job since my kids were born. I've had the luxury of subbing or doing things at home that didn't require me to be anywhere, so I'm working my tail off."

Amy opens the shop in the morning and works until she needs to head back to Falls City for FACES. A part-time employee covers afternoons.

Art works at the cleaners on Fridays when he isn't working in school and on Saturdays.

Both Art and Amy say it's the customer service aspect of the business that makes all the long hours worthwhile.

"I see four or five of the same people every Saturday because that is the time they can drop off their dry cleaning," Art said. "I feel like a bartender - everybody tells their story ... it reminds me of the old TV show `Cheers.'"

Check It Out

What:

Dallas City Cleaners.

Hours:

Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Address:

144 SW Washington St., Dallas.

Services:

Dry cleaning, alterations, laundry service, shoe repair, leather care, area rug cleaning, comforters and drapes.

Of note:

Dallas City Cleaners will celebrate its grand reopening Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with service specials and refreshments provided by The Bread Board.

Phone:

503-623-3356.

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