Dan Long, owner of Long’s Cleaners in Bowling Green, is a natural storyteller. Give him 30 minutes and he’ll tell you a dozen stories, all riddled with locations, names, dates and numbers.
Numbers like 85, which is how many years his family has been in the dry-cleaning business. And 1937, which is when his father, Dan, took a $50 loan from his father, Ray, to start his business.
Long worked with his father off and on for several years, scrubbing wool pants and making pickups and deliveries, until he went out on his own around 1975.
For nearly all of that time — 41 years — he has volunteered his shops’ services to the Salvation Army Warm the Family Program, which provides gently used or new coats and new hats, gloves and scarves for adults and children in need in Wood County.
Long estimates that they clean about 500 coats a year — close to 20,000 coats in total.
“I’ve always thought this was a nice way to give back to Bowling Green and Wood County,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to do something good for somebody, to contribute.”
Warm the Family Volunteer Earlene Kilpatrick said Long’s contributions have been vital to the program.
“If it were not for Long’s support of the Salvation Army’s Warm the Family Program, I doubt the Salvation Army would be able to continue to offer this service to those in need of nicer winter wear,” she said. “I am grateful to Dan and his team, as they truly care about the mission of the program, thus perhaps easing life for those who cannot afford a winter coat. It is heartwarming to see the smiles of gratefulness and appreciation from those receiving clean, warm winter weather clothing.”
Long has operated dry cleaners in other towns, including Fremont and Toledo, over the years, but his locations in Bowling Green, at 345 N. Maple St., and Maumee, Sanitary Cleaners at 225 Golden Gate Plaza, are the only two remaining. Both are accepting donations of gently used coats through Nov. 30.
Long closed Blue Ribbon Dry Cleaners in Perrysburg in 2020 because of the pandemic. He said that the dry-cleaning industry is “more for the older generation” and that several months with no weddings, funerals, church services and work meant a significant decrease in demand for dry cleaning.
“We’re used to dressing up, but the pandemic has just diminished everything,” he said. “Fortunately, several of our customers followed us to Maumee and Bowling Green.”
In addition to his 41 years of service to the Warm the Family Program, Long has supported Bowling Green Youth Baseball for nearly seven decades.
“We started supporting baseball when I was 10 years old and there were four teams in the city,” he said, adding that he himself played a lot of baseball and softball over the years. “Back then, they’d give you a nickel when you retrieved a foul ball. That was big, big money.”
The Salvation Army Warm the Family Program will donate coats, hats, gloves and scarves at its annual Thanksgiving and Christmas distributions, as well as throughout the winter season. To donate new coats, hats, gloves and scarves, call 419-601-0976. For more information on receiving a coat or to learn more about the Salvation Army, go to www.salvationarmynwohio.org.