By Deananne Surratt
Thirty-eight years and counting … as a business owner, that is! As of August 11, 2018, however, it has been an amazing 50 years in total since C.J. Flynn began what would be the career of her lifetime.
Carol, or as she is known to most people in this area, C.J., grew up in the Jacksonville area. Her parents, Tom and Donna Flynn, started her on this path in 1968 when they purchased the first of many laundromats and moved their family to Jerseyville. She and her five siblings worked in the family business throughout their younger years … before there was ever any mention of child labor. In fact, of the six siblings, four of them have worked in the business throughout their lives. Her parents are still living and are ages 90 and 86.
As she was starting out on her own, several key things took place that caused her business to really take hold. Olson Cleaners had announced their closing and right away it sent new customers to her. Following that, Howard’s Cleaners also announced their closing. As you can imagine, this left her new business, Main Street Express Cleaners & Shirt Laundry, a very busy place. A year later, she was approached with an offer to purchase Quality Laundry & Dry Cleaners, and that soon became a reality. She renamed it West Morton Express Cleaners & Laundromat, which it remains to this day. At one point during these years, she was employing a total of 13 full-and part-time employees.
In February 2013, C.J. had a decision to make that would affect not only her, but her employees, as well. Because of the increased taxes on the dry-cleaning fluid they were required to pay, it left her with the tough decision to let some of her employees go and merge the Main Street Express Cleaners business with the West Morton Express Cleaners. Although it was a hard decision to make, she knew she had to let the doors close in order to ultimately save her business. At the time of this interview, however, she was set to close on the sale of the building that housed her Main Street Express Cleaners & Shirt Laundry, in just three days. She is excited to see new life coming to the building that has sat empty for five years.
Looking to see what motivated her to keep going through many years in the same business; it was her motto for life, if you will. It didn’t take long before she was sharing with me her work with the Department of Human Services for the past 15-18 years. She has made herself available to mentor and train people who need a new start in life. She said, “In my business, there are times when repairs need to be made that I can’t always call a repairman for, so some of those who I have mentored have become my hands in making repairs, and doing jobs that are harder for me to do myself.” If you’re wondering if she is in the process of training someone to take the reins when she decides it’s time to hang up her apron, so to speak, without hesitation she said, “It is a family-owned business and that’s the plan, to keep it a family business.” She has two sons, Brian Dawdy and Norbert Schindler. She was proud to say that Norbert is established in his career, and just as proud to say that Brian knows the business and will possibly step in to take her place one day.
The business has an amazing lady running it and we want to wish her a very happy 38th anniversary!!
On a final note … upon asking if she would mind sharing a laundry tip with all of us, she gladly shared a tip that she has given to friends of hers for years: If you get a spot of something on your outfit, as soon as you can, treat it with Dawn dish soap, the Original Blue only. Then, just toss it in your basket until you are ready to do your laundry. Stains will come right out.
Thanks for the tip C.J., and thanks for pouring your life into our community!