| By Katie Shroeder | Photography by Greg Gillis|
From CS Bride’s 5th Anniversary Issue

Rick and Lynda Wood, owners of five-star certified couture cleaner Davis Imperial Cleaners, set the standard for restoring and preserving wedding gowns. So we asked the experts: When it comes to seeing a vintage gown’s potential (or potential flaws), what should a bride look for?

A Musty Odor
Mildew can weaken the tensile strength of a fabric beyond repair.

Long-set stains can hinder the process of restoring a fabric to a uniform color.

Fume Fading
Like furniture, a dress that was stored with only a part of it exposed to sunlight can fade irreversibly.

Snags and Tears
Keep an eye out for rips that can’t be seamlessly fixed by a tailor.

Davis Imperial Cleaners, 3325 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., 773.267.4560,


Davis Imperial Cleaners works with John Williams of WGN Radio to donate services to children in need at Wentworth Elementry School on the south side of Chicago

Mrs. Paula Powers, Principal, D.S. Wentworth School and Jordan Wood of Davis Imperial Cleaners


By Ryan Connelly Holmes | June 18th, 2012

The front windows of Davis Imperial Cleaners at 3325 West Bryn Mawr Ave. in Chicago

It was the day that changed Jordan Wood’s life.

He and his parents had just come back from lunch to their offices at Davis Imperial Cleaners when they saw a young man filling out a job application. It wasn’t until they spoke to Jon Tabor, a volunteer for RefugeeOne, a refugee resettlement agency, that Wood learned he was filling out the application for the two Iraqi men standing outside. One of those men was Remon Aljamany. Wood sent Aljamany out for the afternoon with one of his managers. Within a week, Aljamany was hired as a driver, becoming Davis Imperial Cleaners’ first refugee employee.

Aljamany is one of 17 refugees Jordan Wood has hired to work at Davis Imperial Cleaners beginning three and a half years ago. Twelve of them are still working there today, and the experience has changed the way Wood looks for employees.

“As an owner or manager in small business, the employees can be your biggest problem,” he says.

“But these are people that are truly appreciative for the work. These are people that work really hard. These are people that say thank you when they get paychecks.”

Jordan Wood, 30, is the business operator of Davis Imperial Cleaners.

Davis Imperial Cleaners is a world-renowned high-end clothes cleaner. It has been serving customers in Chicago and globally since Wood’s grandfather founded it in 1956. It’s been showcased by Vogue, Chicago Magazine, and InStyle Magazine, and has its own YouTube video. Their customers send garments from around the world, and the company caters to stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Armani.

Jordan Wood, the third generation of his family to be involved with Davis Imperial Cleaners, specifically looks to hire refugees because he says they make great employees.

Jordan Wood, 30, is the business operator of Davis Imperial Cleaners

Adjusting to life on the job

Remon Aljamany sat in the passenger seat of a Davis Imperial Cleaners van. He was dizzy and did not know where he was. The highways and expressways appeared foreign to him. Sitting next to him was George, one of Wood’s managers, who was driving the car. Even with a navigator, Aljamany felt lost in Chicago’s matrix.

That was the first time Aljamany sat in a Davis Imperial Cleaners van, the same day that he and Jordan Wood met for the first time. Aljamany, a 25-year-old refugee from Baghdad, struggled to learn his job as a driver at first, but with help from Wood and other employees, he was able to learn quickly.

“They spent a lot of time with me,” Aljamany says over the phone while out making deliveries. “They gave me patience more than usual, just so I knew what I was doing.”

Now Aljamany has extensive knowledge of Chicago’s road networks, often suggesting alternate travel routes or a spot to eat that even Wood has never heard of before. And he loves his job.

Aljamany is but one of the many refugee employees who have found success at Davis Imperial Cleaners.

Narayani Kafley, 25, is a Bhutanese refugee from Nepal, one of nine women from Nepal who work for Wood. She came to the United States with her parents in 2010 after living as a refugee in Nepal for 18 years. A primary school teacher in Nepal, Kafley now works as a clothing inspector, scouring garments for stains or cracked buttons for between 5 and 11 hours per day, depending on the number of garments. She says her job as a clothing inspector is easier and provides greater financial security than her teaching job in Nepal.

Narayani Kafley checks clothes for imperfections five days per week, beginning early in the morning and working until all the garments have been checked.

Like many refugees who struggle with English when arriving in the United States, Kafley faced a language barrier when she began at Davis Imperial Cleaners in August 2010. She had trouble understanding conversational English.

“We knew the English,” she says above the whirring of machines from outside the Davis break room, “but we didn’t understand the talk. That was at only first, but now it is good.”

One of the team members at Davis Imperial Cleaners at 3325 West Bryn Mawr Ave. in Chicago

Finding refugees

After Remon Aljamany was delivered to the front step of Davis Imperial Cleaners, Jordan Wood began calling RefugeeOne to find his employees. One hundred percent of his refugee hires have come from RefugeeOne, he says. Last year, the agency resettled about 500 refugees, according to Employment Department Manager Stacey Tsibulsky.

Her department helps pair refugees and employers based on relevant skills, proximity to offices, and language skills. RefugeeOne will call employers during the first two months to check on the employees, and then they track 90-day retention. After that point, the refugees are on their own unless they need additional transportation assistance or other problems arise.

For Jordan Wood and Davis Imperial Cleaners, RefugeeOne has become an important resource, streamlining his hiring process.

“If I need someone, unless someone highly skilled in a trade like a seamstress, we used to put ads in papers, and now we just go to RefugeeOne,” Wood says.

“It’s one easy phone call to make, and we have total trust that whoever they are going to provide will be awesome, and that’s what the case has been.”

Tsibulsky, who is in her second year at RefugeeOne, knows the important role that refugee resettlement organizations and employers play in the lives of refugees. She praises Davis Imperial Cleaners for giving refugee employees a chance.

“They came to Chicago to be rescued,” she says. “They are looking forward to restarting their lives, so they really want to work to support themselves and their families.”

One of the team members at Davis Imperial Cleaners at 3325 West Bryn Mawr Ave. in Chicago

A family of workers

Pat LaRue bounces from station to station in the work area at the back of Davis Imperial Cleaners, ducking and diving around the racks of shirts and other garments. There is a profound sense of pride in her voice as compliments rain down on every employee she passes. She swells with the joy of a mother relishing in the accomplishments of her children.

LaRue is the store manager for Davis Imperial Cleaners. She shows a genuine interest in the lives and work of the refugee employees, calling them a “rainbow coalition.” Over the phone, when she came to describe Beda Tiwari, a young woman who is a refugee form Nepal, she celebrated her improvement as a worker.

“It was amazing, the young lady who touches up the shirts,” LaRue says of Tiwari. “She had no experience. I told her to concentrate and work on her speed. Now, I can’t say we’ve had a better person doing shirts since I’ve been here. She’s fabulous.”

Several of the Nepali refugees are related, including Narayani and her sister-in-law Tika Kafley, who began working in September 2010.

Jordan Wood knows how important it is to have family in the office. His parents, Rick and Lynda, are owners of Davis Imperial Cleaners. It increases everyone’s comfort level, he says.

“I think part of the reason they want to work here is that they’re comfortable,” Wood says. “Is it about the money? Sure. Is it about having a paycheck? Yeah, but I think they’re comfortable because a lot of this has to be so overwhelming and scary and to see people from your family when you start a new job is probably a lot less overwhelming.”

But family at Davis Imperial Cleaners is not always about bloodline or marital connections. For Remon Aljamany, Jordan Wood is as much a member of his family as his own flesh and blood.

“Honestly, I don’t think of Jordan as my boss,” he says. “I talk to him like my friend or my brother.”


The inside of Davis Imperial Cleaners at 3325 West Bryn Mawr Ave. in Chicago

Whether it’s the red wine that splashed on your new white dress (the moment you walked into the party, no less), or –– for better or for worse –– the pair of pants that doesn’t seem to fit quite like it used to, there’s never a good time for a fashion disaster. Luckily, Chicago is filled with miracle workers who can keep you from tossing out some of your prized wardrobe possessions. Do you have a tried-and-true, go-to miracle worker who has helped you out of a bind? Tell us! Here are three of our favorites who have been there for us like a brother.

The Problem: Stains that even Shout can’t get out.

The Miracle Worker: Davis Imperial Cleaners has been waving its magic wand over piles of clothing since 1956 (a three-generation family biz) and has a stellar reputation for being the absolute best dry cleaner in the Chicagoland area. But make no mistake. This isn’t like the little place around the corner that you send your dress shirts for a weekly refresh. First Lady Michelle Obama and Nate Berkus are among a long list of celebs who have their luxe threads in Imperial’s care. This five-star, certified couture cleaner has a super-cool, state-of-the-art dry-cleaning system that is made up of finishing and computer equipment. There’s even a team of “stain technicians” who work like bloodhounds to ensure the proper methods of stain removal are being used for the particular type of stain they are dealing with. As if that wasn’t enough cred to get you to bring your Chanel jacket in, the staff is constantly being educated on fashion trends to ensure that they know how to properly handle the latest fabrics in the industry.

The Problem: A broken heel on your favorite pair of stilettos.

The Miracle Worker: Beehive Shoeworks is another miracle worker that has been around for over 50 years. Thanks to a combination of old-world craftsmanship and new-world technology, the high-grade shoe repair ensures that you’ll have the same pep in your step that you did before your shoes became worn and torn. If it’s the soles and not the stems that are the problem, Beehive specializes in resoling, a 19-step process (minimum) that involves the complete removal and reconstruction of the sole.

Beehive Shoeworks, 35 North Wells Street (between Franklin and LaSalle Streets)

The Problem: Ill-fitted clothing.

The Miracle Worker: Okay, so it’s not much to look at, but new SOS Cleaners is known for transforming your ill-fitted threads into pieces that look like they were made especially for your rockin’ body. The family-owned business has been handling full-service alterations, sewing, and tailoring services for 10 years and has a laundry list (sorry) of testimonials on its website to back up its stellar work. Its site also has a list of special discounts to take advantage of, so there’s no excuse to be walking around in those baggy pants.

SOS Cleaners, 810 West Irving Park Road (between Claredon Avenue and Broadway Street)

Article courtesy of


What is the most common misconception about dry cleaners?
Dry cleaning is bad for your clothes! Incorrect! Bad dry cleaning is bad for your clothes, good dry cleaning is good for your clothes! In fact, good dry cleaning can/will extend the life of your garments.

What is the most common mistake dry cleaners make?
Most dry cleaners treat each garment as a piece. Ever dropped off your cleaning and received a receipt that says 11 garments or 6 pants 5 dresses? Each piece needs to be treated individually. Recognition of the designer’s intention as it relates to drape of the garment is vital. This is why we take a picture of each piece that we process. Does it have a crease, do the buttons need to be removed, does beading need to be secured, and so on? Details, details, details. Take a Hermes blazer a good dry cleaner might remove the buttons, while a great dry cleaner will definitely remove the buttons and mimic the “h” stitch when reattaching.

What is ‘dry cleaning’ exactly?
Dry cleaning is a process used to clean textiles/clothing using a solvent that is not water. However, it is important to note that drycleaners do more than dry clean. A number of garments processed are actually wet cleaned; it’s a safe and effective method just like dry cleaning. Important to note that a good dry cleaner will use a variety of tools based on fabric content, stains, etc.

What makes Davis Cleaners different from regular dry cleaners?
Old World techniques coupled with state of the art equipment. 13-step process. From crystal-clear eco-friendly solvents, six different points of inspection, packaging that mimics the place of purchase (will not find wire hangers here), we are different. Digital photography of each and every piece, experience, experience, experience. Education is huge; we are constantly shopping the stores to discover the latest fabrics and trends. Saturday, my father is flying with two of our employees to Manhattan to talk about and review this season’s problem garments.

What things can people do to protect their clothes from moths and preserve the longevity of them? Any spring tips?
When storing garments for the long term, be careful to avoid storing it along an exterior wall or an attic. These areas generally have higher humidity, which could result in mildew growth, as well as extreme fluctuations in temperature can be detrimental to fabrics.

Always clean your garments before seasonal storage. Soil, food stains, and perfume will attract insects during storage. Remember to store your sweaters in breathable sweater bags that have clear view fronts and synthetic fabric for the backing.

Garments should never be stored in plastic garment bags. These bags are used by dry cleaners purely for the purpose of transport to prevent your garments from soil and poor weather conditions. Remove them immediately upon receipt and remember to leave your garment covers on to protect the shoulders of your garments from dust and direct light.

How often should you dry clean a suit or dress?
This is a difficult question without a clear-cut answer. If money is no object, then I revert back to my answer above. As long as the drycleaner is maintaining high standards, clothes should be returned to your closet clean, period. If you are looking for a couture dry cleaner in your area, ask the premier boutiques, couture department store managers, event planners, and personal shoppers in your area for their recommendation.



By Elle Eichingler
From Michigan Avenue Magazine, October 2011


Gown restoration and fire and smoke damage repair. A full-service alterations department of experienced dressmakers and tailors are kept informed of the latest fabric-care technologies and of-the-moment materials. Davis is recognized as one of the top 10 couture cleaners in the world.

Davis Imperial Cleaners, 3325 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., 773.267.4560,



By Tegan Donnelley
From the March issue of Michigan Avenue Magazine

Davis Imperial Cleaners isn’t your average corner dry cleaner. Like you, it believes your most coveted couture deserves more than a little TLC. At Davis, a technician (aptly called a couture fabricare specialist) gives each garment–whether it’s a basic shirtdress or a museum-quality piece–a comprehensive inspection and analysis. And he or she doesn’t miss a thing. A specialist can spend several hours on one item. While prices aren’t cheap, the initial garment analysis and price quote are complimentary. Here, co-owner Lynda Wood explains the special care needed to keep your favorite fashions in tip-top shape.

Knits are vulnerable to stretching or becoming misshapen in the dry cleaning process. A technique called blocking guarantees that the shape of a knit is preserved. After the initial dimensions are measured and recorded, the knit is steam-cleaned and blocked to its original measurements.

When canvas, leather, and metal hardware adorn a canvas bag, a one-size-fits-all cleaning approach won’t work. At Davis, different techniques and chemicals are use on each material to safeguard against dye bleeding.

Chances are your favorite silk party frock is studded with invisible white wine stains. Wood uses a full-spectrum light analysis on the piece to target and treat each stain so it doesn’t become permanent.

The pearly finish of a reptile skin may make for a lust-worthy bag, but it’s all too easily damaged in the cleaning process. Hand care and an appropriate cleaning solution will maintain the original fabulous finish.

The hand-sewn edges of a scarf should never, ever be ironed flat. At Davis, scarves are hand-pressed, then edges softly rolled.

The loose thread within the boucle yarn, which gives these garments their nubby texture, can easily unravel, making them “as fragile as they are beautiful,” says Wood. Proper cleaning will prevent damage to the fabric and protect pearly or bead embellishments. Davis also makes sure to dry boucle at a precise temperature to avoid shrinkage.

Davis Imperial Cleaners, 3325 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., 773.267.4560,


National Clothesline, February 2011

A field trip to the Chicago History Museum for a special viewing of the museum’s wedding gown exhibition was a highlight of the recent Leading Cleaners Internationale affiliates’ meeting.

LCI affiliates were hosted and guided by Timothy Long, curator of the exhibition “I Do, Chicago Ties the Knot.” The exhibition examines how America’s wedding industry emerged and the traditions and practices that have grown up around it.

“In 1924, Marshall Field & Company became the first retail store to offer a bridal registry. They realized the potential of a bride being a customer for not just one day, but a customer for life,” Long said.

Long took LCI affiliates into the back room and basement areas for a unique conservation tour of historical period clothing. The museum’s collection includes nearly 1,000 wedding gowns, suits, and accessories dating back to the 1720s.

“I was truly impressed by our tour and never really knew what went into museum conservation and preservation,” said Margaret Butler of Dublin Cleaners in Columbus, OH.

In another segment of the meeting, the wedding gown processing department of Davis Imperial Cleaners in Chicago was featured. Long-time affiliates and founding members Lynda and Rick Wood, along with their son, Jordan, who represents the next generation of the family business, led LCI members on a tour of their operation. The Woods showed their client viewing area for pre- and post-wedding gown inspection and described their on-going industry technological changes.

Tim Long, Chicago History Museum conservator, explains restoration techniques to Leading Cleaners Internationale affiliates who got a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s exhibition on the history of the wedding industry during their recent meeting in Chicago.

LCI’s 2 1⁄2 day fall gathering also featured presentations by guests and affiliate members. Highlighting the meeting was a one-hour candid conversation with Jack Mitchell, author of Hug Your Customer and Hug Your Employees. He spoke on expanding your business in today’s economy.” Another guest speaker, Kristyn Wilson of Media Source in Columbus, OH, discussed media marketing.

Keeping with the meeting’s theme, Qualities of a Leader, topics presented by LCI affiliates included Creating a Company Culture by Kermit Engh of Fashion Cleaners in Omaha, NE, and 2010 Strategic Planning by Claude Foreman of One Cleaners in New Orleans, LA.

At the LCI awards banquet, LCI Secret Shopper presentations were made to Jack Creed of Creeds, in Toronto, ON, for single store and most improved company and to the Butler family — Greg, Margaret, and Brian of Dublin Cleaners in Columbus, OH — LCI’s multi-store shopper award for three or more locations.

Unable to attend this meeting were affiliates John-Claude Hallak of Hallak Cleaners, in New York, NY; Surendra Kumar of Oakwood Cleaners in Nashville, TN; and Jarrell Epp of New City Cleaners in Bakersfield, CA. Chuck Horst of Margaret’s, LaJolla, CA, was represented by family member Jan Bohn.

LCI members in the lobby of Davis Imperial Cleaners are, from left, Jack Creed, Creeds, Toronto, ON; Kermit Engh, Fashion Cleaners, Omaha, NE; Claude and Jeanne Foreman, One Cleaners, New Orleans, LA; Sandy Gershenson; Wayne Edelman, Meurice Garment Care, NY, NY; Barry Gershenson, executive coordinator; Margaret, Greg and Brian Butler, Dublin Cleaners, Columbus, OH; Rick, Lynda and Jordan Wood, Davis Imperial, Chicago, IL; and Jan Bohn, Margaret’s Cleaners, San Diego, CA.

LCI sets standards for specialized drycleaning services that center on the training, development, and acknowledgment of the world’s only five-star couture cleaners.

Cleaners interested in becoming an affiliate can visit or contact Barry Gerhsenson, LCI’s executive coordinator, at (310) 734- 6487.