Dry cleaning dynasty: Auburn business celebrates 100 years

Joe and Diana Gagliostro are the owners and operators of Muldoon Dry Cleaners in Auburn and Skaneateles. The business was previously owned by Joe’s father and grandfather. (Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen)
[auburnpub.com – 2022.02.20] Joe Gagliostro was afraid his family business would fall short of its 100th anniversary by a year or two. The business, Muldoon Dry Cleaners in Auburn and Skaneateles, was “crushed” by COVID-19, Gagliostro told The Citizen on Friday. Most of the reasons people have their clothes dry cleaned — from weddings and funerals to office shifts and trade shows — suddenly evaporated in March 2020. Weeks into the pandemic, Gagliostro and his wife, Diana, were the last of about 15 staff hanging on.

But Muldoon was able to make it to the century mark. As life slowly returned to normal, the dry cleaner recovered about 80% of its business, Gagliostro said, and its staff is back up to five.

“People still aren’t on business flights or shaking hands at conventions, but they’re getting back out socially,” he said. “People still want to put a nice dress shirt on and go out for dinner.”

COVID-19 was hardly the first time the dry cleaner had to change. The business is “immensely” different today, Gagliostro said, than it was when William Muldoon began scrubbing clothes with a washboard in his house about 100 years ago. The exact year he did that, however, is unclear. Some advertisements say 1923, while one from 1934 thanks customers for 13 years of service.

Muldoon Dry Cleaners on Grant Avenue in Auburn. (Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen)

Regardless, Muldoon took the business from his home to shops on Water Street, and later Genesee Street. By 1934, the dry cleaner had outgrown the latter and opened its current Auburn location on Grant Avenue. Around 1955, Muldoon hired Dominick Gagliostro, Joe’s grandfather. He worked his way into owning the business with Carmen A. Quattrociocchi, and bought his partner out in 1968. The next owner was Joe’s father, Joseph, who started working there straight out of school in the early 1970s.

Joe did the same thing. He started as a teen at Muldoon in 2003, and for about eight years, he worked there side by side with the two generations before him. Dominick passed away in 2010.

“It’s priceless to carry on his work that he taught me through my own hands, as he did every day,” Joe said. “I’m grateful to my grandparents and my parents before me for keeping it going.”

That tradition could continue with Joe and Diana’s 14-year-old daughter, Sophia, who’s already recycling hangers and sweeping floors at Muldoon on weekends.

Whether or not she decides to become the fourth generation of the Gagliostro family to own and operate the dry cleaner, her father just hopes she has the chance.

“We give 100% every day to carry on the business and the name,” he said. “I hope Muldoon is here for her.”