In 1929, James Sarni, Sr. began offering laundry pickup and delivery service to Boston’s affluent society with his horse and buggy. He would bring linens and clothing to his home in the North End where his wife Mary cleaned them in their basement. Sarni Cleaners was among the first to adopt a novel dry cleaning solvent called perchloroethylene, which could drastically cut down on the processing time for dry cleaning.
In the 1950s, a second generation of Sarnis returned from World War II and joined the family business, which grew rapidly in Boston and its suburbs. In 1990, Ken Sarni graduated from Merrimack College and joined Sarni Cleaners, the third generation to do so. Five years later, he became CEO. In 2018, Sarni Cleaners merged with Utopia Cleaners of Arlington, Massachusetts.
The owner of Utopia Cleaners, Myeong Ho Lowe, is an early adopter of the eco-friendly garment cleaning process called wet cleaning, which replaces perc with water and biodegradable detergents. He experimented and perfected the wet cleaning system at his processing plant in Arlington, MA. As a result, workers there are no longer exposed to perc, and hazardous wastes and air emissions are no longer produced.
Today, Sarni Cleaners / Utopia Cleaners provides laundry services, dry cleaning, wet cleaning, shirt laundry, wedding gown preservation and alterations services to the Greater Boston community. It operates three downtown locations in Boston as well as stores in Arlington, Newton and Woburn. Its laundry pickup and delivery areas include Boston, Cambridge, Brookline, Newton, Wellesley, Arlington, Belmont, Lexington, Woburn, Winchester and surrounding areas.
In 1929, James Sarni, Sr. revolutionized dry cleaning in Boston by picking up and delivering his customers' cleaning.
Sarni Cleaners truck on Devonshire Street in 1948. (Source: City of Boston archives)
Today, Sarni Cleaners / Utopia Cleaners has a fleet of five state-of-the-art vehicles for pickup and delivery in Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Wellesley, Arlington, Belmont, Winchester, Lexington, Woburn and nearby areas.