Bruce Hillary scrupulously examines a pair of red trousers, looking for salt stains.
When he finds one, he blasts the pants with a steam gun then moves on to the next pair.
At 73, he weaves his way around the plant like someone half his age.
And after 48 years of laundering, ironing, and inspecting, Hillary is hanging up his own crisply pressed white dress shirt and retiring from the dry cleaning business.
“I think it was time,” he said Friday, his last day at work.
“You get to an age where you want to relax a little bit and do other things.”
Over the years, most of his time has been spent in the plant.
“And that’s where I believe in a service business like ours, an owner-operator has to be,” he said.
Hillary’s father, Fraser, opened shop in 1949.
Since 1951, Hillary’s has been headquartered at Wellington St. and Grange Ave.
He sold his store to John Murray last September and they’ve been in transition since.
“Obviously, it means a great deal to me to have the flag still flying under the Hillary name,” Hillary said.
“But I may say without hesitation, that really what he was buying was the name that Hillary brought to this business.”
The store has a list of impressive clientele, including Canada’s prime minister from 1979-80.
“An order of Joe Clark’s. I’ve got PM on there,” he said, motioning to a package on a shelf.
“Mike Duffy was particularily good to me in the early stage of our pick up and delivery business. And Mike’s been a very
valuable client. Now, Senator Duffy,” he said, chuckling.
Bruce’s brother, David, still owns the Bank St. location.
Their father passed away a few years ago.
“My dad used to refer to the business, when he had it, as almost a hobby. It wasn’t about the money. It was about just being busy, meeting a lot of people. And enjoying the success that the 60 years has brought to our family,” said Hillary.
But Bruce is more than the undisputed king of stain removal.
He’s spent countless hours doing community work with various organizations such as the YMCA-YWCA and the Royal Ottawa Hospital.
“He’s been a tremendous person to keep this city moving the way it should move and doing it right and he’s known for that,” said Senator Joyce Fairbairn.
“And as far as the clothes are concerned, I wouldn’t even dream of going anywhere else.”