It’s none other than Ladywell Junction Express Dry Cleaners! Set up in 1966 by Arif Salih Enver and now run by his daughter Emine Enver, it was actually a pioneering shop at a time when dry cleaning shops were still a rarity. Back then, people used to send their clothes to dry cleaning factories, waiting about 10-14 days to have them back. The concept of even same day dry cleaning – something we take for granted now – was completely unknown back then!
Arif came to Ladywell from a village called Platani in North Cyprus. As a young Cypriot, he came looking for a better life – he came on his own, as the oldest of seven children, setting an example for his younger siblings, and then being followed to England by his family. He worked a number of jobs when first coming to the UK: in the Park Lane Hotel kitchen making tea and coffee, in the Lindt chocolate factory in Bermondsey and in painting and decorating.
A family affair
After a friend introduced him to the dry-cleaning business, Arif did not look back. They found an empty shop for rent in Ladywell which used to be a café before. They rented it, fixed it up and turned it into a dry cleaner’s.
This was a true family operation from the beginning. Arif’s wife, Sonay, was an integral part of the business by doing the repairs and alterations. Emine recounts that even with four little children, she would take them to the park during the day and while they ran around and played, Sonay sat on the bench stitching.
Emine tells us how the Enver kids would help out at the shop as well, and some customers might remember Arif’s oldest son Ed who used to help his dad. Emine and her sister would travel to Ladywell from school in Rushey Green to help at the shop until Arif and Ed locked up at 6pm. Unfortunately Ed fell ill with leukaemia and passed away after a difficult illness in 1991. Though Emine had ambitions to study Travel and Tourism and work as an air stewardess, she had to prioritise her family and thus started working with her father.
It has not been an easy journey for Emine, who was left to take over the shop on her own after separating from her husband. With two children, aged 2 and 7 at the time, it was not easy, so she was thankful that her parents returned to Ladywell from Cyprus to help her with the business this time. Arif helped her in running the shop again, whereas Sonay was ‘literally my live-in nanny’ according to Emine. With her two daughters grown and studying at University now – one is doing her Masters in Clinical Psychology and the other is studying Law at Leeds – Emine declares that this would not have been possible without her family’s support. Although the family have had to deal with the tragedy of her brother’s Ed’s death, she feels that the experience made them even stronger.
Ladywell then and now
Ladywell in 1966 sounds quite similar to what we know today, though Arif states that the Ravensbourne is in a much better state now as there used to be a lot of flooding in the 1970s.
There was an electrical goods shop selling fridges, radios and TV sets where Expressions hairdressers are now; a shoe repair shop on the other side of Ladywell Junction Express, where unfortunately there is an empty shop now; a Co-op where the betting shop on the corner is, a butcher’s not too far from Meat Jon’s shop, and a wallpaper/decorating shop in what is now WMB hairdressers. Across the road from the dry cleaners’ there was a betting shop, a hardware shop where Oscar’s is now, a fish and chip shop where Catch Inn is, a greengrocer’s – Harry & Son – where Sebastian Roche the estate agency is, and a pub called the Freemason’s Pub, whose owner was Jim.
On Malyons Rd there was an engineering shop, Hill Engineering, and on the hill where the flats are, there was a TV repairs factory, Granada.
In many ways, a lot has changed: the shops, some of the families have moved away, gentrification has brought in new generations. But Ladywell continues to be a bustling village full of small and family-owned businesses that care about their community.
Dry Cleaners and more…
This shop is extremely versatile, and in addition to standard dry cleaning, they will also clean wedding dresses, suede, leather, duvets, upholstery, rugs; they also do repairs, alterations, and excitingly, they also now offer a shoe repair service!
Emine has recently also been selling high quality cotton face masks with plenty of designs available to choose from.
Many customers pop in these days to have a chat with Emine and to see a friendly face, especially as it must be quite tough for many of us staying at home these days. Although the recent months have been tough for her, Emine remains an optimist. She has faith in her loyal customers, and although most of us are working from home so we do not bring in suits, shirts or business wear, many customers keep finding things to bring in. Let’s hope that things will get better soon, and in the meantime, we hope our community will help Ladywell’s oldest shop get through these tough times.
| Did you know…?|
We asked Emine to share her expertise with us – what is one thing most of us do not know about dry cleaning?
‘Most people don’t actually know what dry cleaning means! They think it gets washed in a “dry” way without getting wet.
‘Just to simplify: The dry cleaning machine is very similar to a washing machine but the biggest difference is … you don’t use water, we use Perc (short for perclorothyene ) and garments DO get wet ! But when you come to the drying section the temperature basically causes the perc to evaporate from the clothes, hence they become “dry”!