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Woodside: Memories (and tips) of a former laundry pro

Canada Cleaners in Woodside is a laundry service, but for at least a few minutes in 2011 it was a tailoring service as well.

Kathleen Hunnicutt, who recently sold her dry cleaning business after 36 years, recalled a man walking into her place and asking for some thread. He had a meeting to attend, he said, and a collar button that he wanted to resew on to the shirt he was wearing.

Ms. Hunnicutt told him she had what he needed, and offered to do the sewing herself if he would just take a seat. Which he did, with his shirt on, and Ms. Hunnicutt proceeded to sew the collar button back on as two customers watched.

The work complete, the man offered to pay, but Ms. Hunnicutt said she refused. The man left, and the two customers asked her if she'd been aware that she had repaired a shirt being worn by pro football Hall of Fame cornerback Ronnie Lott, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers.

She had not been aware, she said, adding to the Almanac that she never heard the end of it from her four brothers.

Mr. Lott came back with a gift, a container of bath salts extracted from the Dead Sea. "He's a very kind man, and very grateful," she said.

Cold water wash

As a professional in the cleaning of clothes, Ms. Hunnicutt naturally brings her expertise home with her. When she washes clothes, unless they are really dirty, she uses cold water and sets the washing machine to delicate.

"I find that (delicate) does a great job," she said.

She said she puts them in the drier for no more than five or 10 minutes, just enough to remove dampness and not long enough to risk shrinking. Drying by air is easier on clothes, she said.

As for dry cleaning, people tend to overdo it, she said. She's had customers who bring something in after having worn it once. "If something doesn't need to be dry cleaned, don't do it," she said.

The new owner at Canada Cleaners is Carlos Arias, for 15 years on the staff at Helen's One Hour Cleaners & Laundry on Woodside Road in Redwood City, Ms. Hunnicutt said.

Of her years behind the counter, Ms. Hunnicutt said it often became personal. "So many times (customers) would share their life's experiences," she said. "It wasn't just a dry cleaners. It was a place to visit."

"I would like to thank everyone who shared their life stories with me," she said in a message provided to the Almanac. "For many of you, I have had the opportunity to watch your families grow, and to watch your children grow families of their own.

"I am gratified to leave (my business) in experienced hands. I am confident in their work and pleased in seeing how they operate with integrity and diligence," she said.

Ms. Hunnicutt lives in Sunnyvale and said she will be looking into volunteering at Woodside's Filoli estate.

Red sweater day

Celebrities came by Canada Cleaners occasionally, including Joe Montana and Roger Craig, Ms. Hunnicutt said, both former stars with the San Francisco 49ers.

For more than five decades, Woodside was home to film icon and former diplomat Shirley Temple Black, who would have her hair done near where she had her clothes cleaned.

"Shirley Temple was a really good customer of mine," Ms. Hunnicutt said. "She was a very private person, but had a great character and she was very funny. She had these one liners."

Knowing of Ms. Black's preference for the color red, Ms. Hunnicutt said she once offered her two of her red sweaters, and that Ms. Black accepted them and wore them.

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