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Post Haste

A smile you can get at most dry cleaners, but you would have to look high and low for Shostakovich.

At Victoria Village Cleaners in Ventura, classical music plays 12 hours a day, for the customers out front and the employees in the back. The owners, Walter and Wanda Chowanski, believe in setting a tone that makes a routine trip to the dry cleaners an excursion into civility.

Against the genteel strains of a string quartet, you are invited to drop off your cleaning and pick up a cup of coffee. Papua New Guinea was the selection one day last week. As you pay your bill, you can unwrap a hard candy and ponder the local artists’ watercolors hanging on the wall.

“This is our great love,” said Walter Chowanski, an intense white-haired man who admits to being on “the right side of 50.” He grew up around his father’s dry cleaning shop in Chicago and owned a number of businesses before returning to his dry cleaning roots three years ago.

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The Chowanskis have strong feelings about service. The brochure they hand each customer makes 10 promises--Promise No. 3: “Replace missing buttons”; Promise No. 7: “Trim off hanging threads”; Promise No. 10: “Doing anything and everything to your complete satisfaction.”

Asked about his philosophy of service, Walter Chowanski doesn’t hesitate.

“Post,” he says.

Post?

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“POST!” he exclaims. “Positively Outrageous Service Today. POST!”

More than one lawyer about to plead a case at the courthouse just up Victoria Avenue has rushed in, pleading for help with a gob of marinara sauce just splattered on a shirt. Relief granted.

Chowanski likes to tell the story of the formally dressed couple who came in just before closing time one evening last year. On their way to a banquet, the woman dropped her lipstick, which left a scarlet trail down the front of her white evening gown.

It took some doing, but the Chowanskis managed to get rid of the stain without requiring the harried woman to shed the dress.

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“Today she’s a regular customer,” Chowanski said.

Conducting an impromptu tour of the shop, he praised his employees for their sharp appearances.

“Never go to a cleaner dressed worse than you,” said Chowanski, natty in a linen jacket and navy slacks. “My father taught me that.”


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