Swanson is hanging up dry cleaning business for retirement
Harlan — Barb Swanson, owner of Touch of Class Dry Cleaning in Harlan, has retired after 29 years of business.
Swanson opened Touch of Class in November 1994. “We put all the piping and equipment in,” Swanson said. “It was a shell when we went there.”
At that time, she had already had over 13 years of experience in the dry cleaning business, and she had worked at her parents’ laundry mat, D & A Laundry, while she was in high school. Swanson purchased D & A in 1994, and she operated both businesses until she sold the commercial laundromat building on Court St. in Harlan to Alex Ahrenholtz.
Mike Kasperbauer, owner of Kasperbauer Cleaners in Carroll, has purchased Touch of Class and assumed ownership Friday, October 27.
“I’m pretty confident people won’t notice the difference, except I won’t be there,” Swanson said with a laugh. “Mike’s a nice guy. He’s going to be a great fit in Harlan.”
Swanson said she spoke to Kasperbauer a few years ago, and he expressed interest in purchasing the business once she was ready to retire. “I called him up one day and said, ‘I’m ready.’”
Swanson said she has seen a lot of changes in the industry in her almost thirty years in business. “Things got better and easier to clean. Lots of things used to be linen and that type of material,” she said.
“Things are more washable now then they were 20 years ago.”
Wedding dress cleaning and preservation, ironing “so many men’s shirts”, and pillow cleaning were just some of the services Barb had perfected in almost three decades.
She had a machine to clean and sanitize the feathers from pillows, then it would shoot it back into new ticking. “That was one of the more uncommon services offered,” she said.
Swanson said she could make heavy starch jeans stand in the corner. She asked a customer one time how he even got into them, “He said he shoved a yardstick in the legs. I guess he got used to doing it.”
Swanson said she appreciates the community for their years of support, and she is grateful for the relationships she has built with her customers. “If it wasn’t for the community, I wouldn’t have been there as long.”
One of her most memorable customers was a Harlan resident who had moved to Council Bluffs. “Her husband passed away and is buried in Harlan. She would come here, go visit him, get her hair done, and bring her dry cleaning to me. She drove back and forth until she was well into her 90’s. She was the sweetest thing,” Swanson said.
She doesn’t have a plan for her retirement, but she said plans on spending time with her daughter, who lives in Omaha, and her 14-year-old grandson.