From Boston Business Journal by Mary Moore
Arthur Anton Jr. is in the business of cleaning clothes with his company, Tewksbury-based Anton’s Cleaners, but he has found a way to help people along the way. One charitable initiative is an annual coat drive — Coats for Kids — during which Anton’s collects more than 50,000 coats between October and January. They then are distributed through various nonprofits, such as the Salvation Army.
Anton’s is perhaps best known for Belle of the Ball — collecting and distributing prom donated dresses. One day each April, Anton’s invites eager prom-goers to Simmons College, where they can browse the selection and find something they like. The first event featured just dresses, and now it includes shoes and accessories, he said.
This year, more than 430 girls came to get dresses this year to attend the event.
“Prom dresses sit in closets and they go out of style,” said Anton, who runs a business started by his grandfather, a Greek immigrant, who passed the cleaning company down to father and uncle. Anton’s brother Charles is the CEO of the company, which has 42 locations, most in Massachusetts, and will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. “The cost of them is a lot more than a lot of people can afford.”
Reporter Mary Moore talked to Anton about the growing popularity of Belle of the Ball and the coat drive — a surge that has prompted Anton to start a nonprofit called Caring Partners to manage the company’s philanthropic work.
What have been your biggest obstacles?
In a family business, there are always challenges. My father and uncle were used to doing things their way, so it took years of making some changes. They were open to new ideas but it took a while to pave our way. You want to keep the relationships and family strong even though you have differences on how you want the business to be run.
What are your hobbies?
Racquetball, exercising, and spending time with my kids. (ages 18 and 14)
If you could have dinner with anybody, who would it be?
My uncle who passed away. He built the business with my father. He never had kids, so I was close to him.
Who are or were your mentors?
My uncle and my father. My father is 86 and is out of the business but he likes to talk about it when we’re together. It was so much a part of his life.
What are three things people don’t know about you?
I am very competitive with Words with Friends. I’ve become addicted to it. I carved a Bombay mahogany wooden desk as part of a shop class, and I still have it in my study. And I took a class on relaxation. It taught me a lot about how to meditate.
What’s your definition of a good day?
Most days are good. You can make any day a good day. Getting to work and not having a ton of messages and problems. Or having problems and solving them quickly. Go to as many stores as I can and talk to employees. Feeling like they look forward to seeing me when I walk in the door.
What are your pet peeves?
Politics and politicians in general. And I don’t like to get into political discussions with people because no good comes of it. Also, people on their cell phones when they’re driving annoys me because they have one hand on the phone and one on the wheel.
What is your favorite restaurant?
Davio’s in Boston.