BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
Teachers, preachers, businessmen, attorneys, and ranchers…What do they all have in common? Each group of people are in the public eye daily and it is important that they are always looking sharp. Individuals from each of these professions are a part of the millions who utilize the services of a dry cleaner. In Mena, K&K Cleaners has been the local cleaners serving the community since 1972.
After K&K was under the leadership of Steve and Angie Graves, Carrie Kelton, long time employee bought the business and became the owner in April 2012. Carrie has worked at the cleaners since 2001, and many in the community know her because of alterations that she has done for countless people. “Who would have thought that learning how to sew in home economics in high school would pay off? I never thought that it would pay one penny and yet it has allowed me to make a living,” says Carrie smiling.
Through the years of serving the people of Polk County, those working at K&K have developed relationships with people who are bringing shirts, jeans, or dresses in. Their customers are more like friends as they share a good laugh and stories. “This feels like home, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love our customers and I really enjoy having the opportunity to talk with each of them,” states Carrie. Many of the customers that come in have been doing so for years and that is part of what makes their work so enjoyable, “I have been doing alterations for years. I can think of girls who brought their cheer uniforms in when they were in high school and now I am altering their kids clothes. It is really neat to see it come full circle,” explains Carrie.
As K&K continues to serve people in the community, they are seeking to do that in a more efficient and personal way. “We are automating a lot of what we do. We now have a system that streamlines what we do a lot more. When a customer comes in, rather than writing a ticket, we go to the computer and quickly put their order in. It prints out a receipt for them and for us. In many ways, this is making what we are doing incredibly efficient.” In the past, tickets would be written with the order and then there were tags places on the clothes based on what services were needed. Over time, this became time consuming and even confusing at times. With everything now moving towards automation, the process not only becomes smoother for everyone at K&K, but the customers as well. “In the past, I would have to add up every item from the ticket and then if they were customers that we billed, I would have to do all that my hand. Now, the computer does all of that. The system is able to track all of those things,” explains Carrie.
Along with making the big automation change, K&K is undergoing other changes as well. For years Carrie has been well known as the altering specialist, and specifically, she may be best known for her alteration on wedding dresses. The cleaners is undergoing a bit of a face lift and there is a new space being created for those fittings. “In the past, the girls trying on dresses have been in a small, tight room and it hasn’t been very private. We wanted to change that and so now we will have a large room that will have mirrors all the way around that is specifically for fitting dresses. I think people will really be pleased with this change,” says Carrie excitedly. In addition to the changes mentioned, Carrie is excited to announce that they are going to start renting tuxedos soon as well. “We wanted something for the guys. We have something for all the girls that want dresses, but nothing for the guys. Now, they can come in and pick out their tux from the catalog and when they come in to pick it up, if any changes are needed, we can do it that very same day.”
Not only is K&K the main dry cleaner for Mena, but it is as well for surrounding counties. “People may not realize this, but we serve people from Waldron, Mt. Ida, and DeQueen as well. The closest dry cleaner is Poteau and so we are always thankful for the opportunity to have that business.”
K&K has established itself not only as a quality dry cleaner, but a place where friends come to be served and heard. “We love what we are doing and we don’t plan on going anywhere,” Carrie says smiling.