Southtown Cleaners and Alterations – Joplin

Kenneth and Brigitte Pippin, owners of Joplin’s Southtown Cleaners and Alterations, thought their business’ neighborhood on South Main Street was a good one. It was not far from downtown and the busy St. John’s Regional Medical Center.

That was before the storm. There simply was no neighborhood afterward.

several washers in laundromatThe Pippins’ business was insured, but they discovered the policy yielded nowhere near the amount they needed to rebuild. While searching through the debris for customers’ clothing and salvageable equipment, Brigitte found a full-length mirror leaning against a wall. It was intact. Maybe this means we won’t have any more bad luck, she thought.

She was right.

SBTDC staff guided the couple through securing an SBA loan, and they took out two loans: one for a new building and one for the contents. Together with the insurance settlement and an additional loan from the Joplin Tomorrow Fund, they rebuilt at the same location.

But would their customers, some of whom had been patronizing Southtown Cleaners for decades, want to return to such a naked neighborhood? The Pippins set the grand re-opening for February of this year and held their breath.

“I was overwhelmed opening day!” Brigitte says. “So many people came, it was unbelievable. I never thought so many people would show up.” She didn’t even have room for all the plants people brought as gifts.

Now, the Pippins estimate business at about 80 percent of what it was pre-tornado. As they move around their larger, more automated business, they see little things they wish they had done differently. Overall, though, they say they’re satisfied. They’ve even added more employees.

“We have some very loyal customers,” Brigitte says. “I know most of these people and their kids. Their kids are getting married now!” Kids who need wedding dresses and tuxedos altered and cleaned.

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