Frances Cleaners History & Family Photos

Back in 1921, Frances Strouse began her journey as a savvy entrepreneur.  At the young age of 11, she began working with her parents cleaning the linens of the area National Guard unit.  By the time she was 20 she had a reputation as a meticulous cleaner, bringing in business from wealthy families in Ridgefield, Redding and New Canaan.

"It was quite a big business," said her niece, Maura Lanzarone of Greenwich, in a 1999 interview. "She hired girls and would board them."

Until the 1930s, her operation used laundry vats so large that the process of heating the water for a day's work began the night before. Things changed one day when a French woman stopped by and told Mrs. Strouse about a new process called dry cleaning that was in use in France.
 

"Being the businesswoman that she was, she started the first dry cleaners in Connecticut," Ms. Lanzarone said two years ago. "She was on the cutting edge. She's pretty amazing — she started everything on her own."

In 1943, Mrs. Strouse and her husband Arthur bought the Victorian House on High Ridge where she moved the business and lived her entire life.  A migrant from Italy, she would help other Italian immigrants get on their feet in the United States.  She would give them an apartment on the High Ridge property, a job at Frances Cleaners in the basement and teach them English.  They could stay as long as they like.

In 1946, Frances and Arthur Strouse officially established Frances Cleaners.

In 1963, Brian Maltas married Fran's daughter Marilyn and joined the family business.  He started slowly at first, learning the business, studying cutting edge dry cleaning techniques.  Over the years he took on more and more responsibility improving the business process.

By 1982, Brian and Marilyn had assumed the core business responsibilities as co-owners.  However by no means did Frances Strouse take it easy!  The fire of her entrepreneurial spirit burned bright!  Frances insisted on making daily contributing to the business until the year 2000 when she was 90 years old!

On July 30th 2016, Frances Cleaners closed its doors after over 70 years in business.