A family business took root in Sussex

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:16

Lou and Arline have a lot to celebrate this month, By Eileen Stanbridge Sussex n Louis and Arline Cecchini both grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., where they met, fell in love and got married. Shortly after that they moved to West Nyack, N.Y., where they began to raise a family and dream of starting their own business. With little more than a down payment and a willingness to work hard they bought into a Betty Brite dry cleaning franchise. They opened the doors of their new business on April 1, 1969 in the A&P Plaza in Sussex and 40 years later they are still going strong and ready to celebrate. “The store brought us here all those years ago,” said Lou. “When the salesman told us he had a nice little place for us to look at in Sussex, we both said WHERE?” In the 40 years since they first drove out to Sussex not knowing exactly what to expect, they have planted deep roots into the Sussex/Wantage community, raising four children — two boys and two girls — who in turn have all married locals and now have children themselves. “All of our kids worked here in the shop over the years and now we have 10 grandchildren and three of them work here,” said Arline. Both Lou and Arline have been actively involved in the community over the years, serving on various boards and committees and feel strongly about “giving back.” “We have always given discounts to the police and fire departments and to the EMS, and we have never charged for the cleaning of flags, banners or choir gowns. We even press students’ graduation gowns for free,” said Lou. Over the years the Cecchinis expanded the business and for many years had five dry cleaning stores located in Wantage, Vernon, Franklin and Warwick, N.Y., in addition to taking in cleaning for nine others. Nowadays, Lou and Arline are acutely aware of how good life and in particularly the dry cleaning business has been to them and don’t feel that they have anything to prove anymore. “We have seen the economy change over the years and we definitely have had our hills and our valleys but at the end of the day people will always dry clean items of clothing that they care about,” said Lou. “We have been downsizing for a number of years and since 2007 we brought it all back to our original location here in Sussex,” he added. Celebrations On Saturday, April 11, Betty Brite will celebrate its 40th anniversary with cake and coffee for visitors. And, in a gesture of appreciation to all of their loyal customers the Cecchinis will offer 40 percent off clothing brought to the store for dry cleaning on that day. Lou and Arline Cecchini will also celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary this month. Cars and doing good Lou and Arline are members of The Wanderers car club, which Lou helped start about 20 years ago. The group is 250 members strong and the first thing Lou wants understood about the club is this: “We have one rule and that’s to have no rules.” A cool car is not a requirement for membership, but Lou and Arline love their 1956 Ford Fairlane Victoria. The Wanderers can be seen every Saturday night from May through September gathering at the Chatterbox in Sparta. “It’s a fun family-oriented club,” says Lou. A big focus of the club is community service. They hold fund drives and local food drives, including their annual November event, during which they usually collect more than 20 A&P grocery carts full of food that they donate to the Sussex food pantry. They visit area nursing homes, usually around Mother’s Day, bearing gifts and showing off their cars. To get involved call 973-875-6525.