Milt Chortkoff was just nine months old when the stock market crashed in 1929, and times were tough for this son of an immigrant tailor growing up in Brooklyn. Milt suffered from asthma as a child, and eventually his parents followed a doctor’s recommendation to move to the West Coast in 1946. His father bought Hollyway Cleaners when they arrived in Los Angeles, and 17 year old Milt began delivering laundry and cleaning around Echo Park and Silverlake while attending Los Angeles City College. When he passed away in 2017 at age 88, Milt had devoted more than 70 years to the cleaning industry knowing that he had never let adversity get the best of him.
Milt liked to say that his “official” career launch in the cleaning industry occurred delivering clothes for Hollyway in 1946 to pay his way through college, but he actually was 10
years old when he started helping his father out by delivering wet washes in a pushcart around
Brooklyn whereupon customers would then hang the damp garments on a clothesline to dry. Milt dabbled in other businesses after graduation from college — like teaching dancing at Arthur Murray and running an Italian import-export company — but he always felt a calling for the cleaning industry.
Milt joined his father full-time in 1954, and, over the years, they built two successful plants and acquired three commercial properties. He loved working with his father and they embraced innovation, such as when they brought pressing, cleaning and tailoring under one roof to become a complete service center, a move that would become the foundation of their success. Soon after his father passed away, Milt “lost his ambition” and retired in 1985. He was 56.
But retirement wasn’t really an option for a man with cleaning solutions in his blood. When a business associate asked for Milt’s opinion about buying a cleaning plant in Burbank, he not only suggested buying it, he also became a partner and eventually bought him out in 1988. Milt named the business Milt & Michael’s Drycleaners for his son-in- law and later renamed it Milt & Edie’s for his wife in 2004, starting a long-running explanation Milt loved to say: “By the way, her name is pronounced ‘EEEEEEdie,’ not ‘Eddie!’”
Over the years, Milt turned Milt & Edie’s into the most successful stand-alone cleaners in the country. Here are some of the industry-leading and customer-oriented aspects of Milt & Edie’s that Milt claimed were the basis for that success:
- Open 24/7/365 – “Very few cleaners can make this claim,” Milt always said, noting that it applied to the Tailoring Center, too. “This is the ultimate in convenience for our
- 2-Hour Cleaning, 2-Hour Shirt Laundry & Expert Alterations available 24/7/365 at No Extra Charge – “This is one of the most powerful statements any cleaner can make and, to my knowledge, no one else makes it,” Milt said.
- Maitre d’ – Customers coming to Milt & Edie’s are typically greeted by a maitre d’ who sends them to an open counter. Milt “stole” this from restaurants because it
creates a friendly atmosphere immediately upon entering the business.
- On-Time Guarantee – Milt conceded he wasn’t the first cleaners to offer this guarantee, but it’s the driving force behind making sure his customers leave happy because late orders are the #1 customer complaint in the industry.
- Free Refreshments – Fresh popcorn, coffee and other refreshments are available day and night. Milt would explain that this was how we would treat guests in his home, so it was the way to treat people who came to his business, too. Treats are available for customers’ kids and pets, too.
- Inspirational Marquee Quotes – Milt began doing this at Hollyway Cleaners and not a week goes by that a customer doesn’t come in and say a message on the monument sign
brightened their day.
To celebrate Milt’s 70 years in the cleaning industry in 2016, a nation-wide search took place to find a 1946 GMC panel truck, the same model as the one in an old photo of Milt when he started working at his father’s cleaners. A truck was found in Alabama, shipped to Burbank, completely overhauled, and painted in the company’s signature magenta. With Milt’s passing in 2017, the truck now stands as a testament to an icon in the cleaning industry and an eye-catching yet simple reminder that Milt & Edie’s has the experience to remain the best cleaners in the world.