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More than 40 years of American flags cleaned free at North Syracuse dry cleaner

From by Jacob Pucci |

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North Syracuse, N.Y. -- Today is Flag Day and for those wanting to display their patriotic spirit, one North Syracuse establishment is willing to help.

Ritter's Cleaners, 403 S. Main St., has been cleaning flags for free for all 41 years the cleaner has been in business, said owner John Ritter Sr.

So far this year, he's cleaned around 65 flags, which puts him above his usual yearly pace of 100. While it's too late to get a flag cleaned for Flag Day today--Ritter said the shop doesn't clean on Saturday--it's just in time to get one cleaned for the Fourth of July.

In the week leading up to Independence Day, Ritter cleans between 15 to 20 flags, he said, his busiest week. This week, he's done around four or five.

"We do them for anyone who brings them in," he said. He also cleans flags for different organizations, such as the American Legion.

It takes about an hour to dry clean a flag and around 15 minutes to press, but the process may be longer if the flag is heavily soiled.

Ritter served with the armed forces in Korea in the early 1960s and when he opened the cleaner in 1972, he brought the love of his country with him.

"I'm very patriotic and I thought it was the right thing to do," he said.

The shop cleans Santa Claus costumes for free as well, a fun thing Ritter said he likes to do around the holidays. The shop cleans around 50 such suits each year.

[Picture caption: Flag Day is June 14 John Ritter uses a vacuum steam press on an American flag in his store Wednesday morning. (Michael Greenlar | )]

Ritter's Cleaners a staple in North Syracuse for more than four decades

From Eagle News Online By Matthew Liptak

North Syracuse — What do Al Roker, Phil Donahue, Connie Francis and Frank Sinatra Jr. have in common?

At one time or another, they've all had their garments cleaned at Ritter's Cleaners at 403 South Main St. in North Syracuse, according to owner John Ritter Sr. Ritter prides himself on taking care of his customers, be they a local resident or a famous celebrity. He's done it for 40 years now.

“I like meeting the public, talking to people and the challenges every day,” he said. “It's just an all-around good environment and I just enjoy the work. It's a friendly place. I know everyone by their names just about that comes in the door. If a new customer comes in I'll shake their hand and welcome them to the area.”

Ritter's passed its 40-year mark just a few weeks ago. The cleaners opened on a Friday the 13th in October of 1972.

It was during a time of transition for John Ritter Sr. that he saw an opportunity that would eventually be his life's work. He had been laid off from his construction job and started helping out at a local cleaners where his girlfriend worked. The girl became his wife and the cleaning business became his trade.

The business he opened up has been good to him and his family.

We put three kids through college — never going to be filthy rich, but we're doing okay,” he said. “As long as I can play golf three or four days a week. We do our work in the morning and then I can play golf in the afternoon.

“My kids all went to C-NS and graduated. My son John is assistant varsity coach for C-NS soccer. My wife was a school teacher here for the North Syracuse district. She retired a few years ago.”

It hasn't been a straight line to success for Ritter's. The business has seen its challenges along the way. The government has rules and regulations, even for the dry cleaning industry.

“The business itself, the one's that hung around, we're still in business but there were a lot of restrictions the state and the government put on the cleaners as far as inspections,” he said “If you didn't get new equipment to come up to these regulations, well then a lot of them stepped aside. It's still a pretty good business — not what it used to be — but a lot of people still need to get their clothes cleaned.”

Ritter's hopes to welcome many more anniversaries in North Syracuse. John Sr.'s son, John Jr. works side by side with his dad each day.

“I think we're going to hang right in there and keep up the good work,” John Ritter Sr. said. “We'll be here a long time. My son will be here. He wanted to get into the business so that's why he's here. I come down and supervise and help out a little bit.”

And what's the Ritters’ formula for success? It's a simple one.

“The big thing of it is hard work,” John Ritter Sr. said. “Hard work and in the beginning, long hours. Give good service. Give the public what they want. When you promise something, do it on time.”

Ritter's offers one-day service for cleaning. It is open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

[Picture caption: John Ritter Jr. poses with John Ritter Sr. outside Ritter's Cleaners in North Syracuse. The business marked its 40th anniversary on Oct. 13. Matthew Liptak]

403 South Main Street, North Syracuse, NY 13212

(Next door to Saint Rose of Lima Church)

(315) 458-8593

Hours Open

Monday - Friday: 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Saturday: 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Closed on Sunday

Holiday Closings:

Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Years Day