After 110 years, a longtime family-owned business in Springfield has transitioned to a new family. In 1909, Carl David Franke and his brother, Franz Franke, opened Paris City Cleaners and Furriers. The business eventually become known as Paris Cleaners but remained in the family for four generations.
Bette Franke, 96, married into the family business when she wed Carl Franke, Jr. in 1947. After their four children were grown, she became involved in the business herself, along with sons Shep and David Franke. “My son, Shep, came to help me one summer and he stayed for 30 years,” said Franke. “He’s 64 years old now.”
With her children approaching retirement age, Franke said she wasn’t sure how to handle the business succession, until she met a young man who greatly impressed her.
Nathan Klughart recently applied for a job pressing pants at Paris Cleaners after previously working in a restaurant. As of June 1, he is now the new owner of the business, at the age of 18. His father, Charles Klughart, also plans to become involved in the business and help with the marketing and administrative tasks.
“I’m doing more of the hands-on work,” explained Klughart. “I’m going to be learning the administration.” While the ownership has changed, he expects the daily operations to be business as usual for now.
For her part, Franke says she feels good about the future of Paris Cleaners. “He’s got a great attitude and motivation, everything that you don’t see in the millennials today.”
Franke said she wasn’t concerned about Klughart being young, noting that Carl Franke, Sr. was the same age when he founded the business. “Kids today go off to college and don’t learn a thing. You learn how to drink beer and make passes at girls. But working in a business – you’re investing in yourself and your education.”
Franke said, “The more I watched him, I thought, ‘This is a real pioneer American.’ I love the American dream. I wanted to give Nathan, who is America’s future, a chance to explore what he could do.”