As a young boy Joseph Fanale would ride his bicycle from Winthrop to Revere to visit his parents’ business, Wonderland Dry Cleaners, on Broadway.
“I’m one of six children and we all worked here at one time or another,” said Fanale. “I used to be in the assembly line. My job was to fish the pockets. If the customers left anything harmful in the pockets, I would remove them before it went into the washer or the cleaner.”
Joseph’s parents, the late Michael and Josephine Fanale, had established Wonderland Dry Cleaners in 1945. An excellent, all-around student, Joseph Fanale attended Boston College High School where he was a classmate of former Revere Finance Director George Anzuoni. Joseph later attended Boston College. He took over as the owner of Wonderland Dry Cleaners in 1973.
It has been a remarkable 75-year journey, a tribute to the Fanale family philosophy that, “you have to be accountable – I think that’s very important – and you really have to care.”
“I think taking pride in your work is even more important than being good at it,” said Joseph. “There are plenty of people that are good at something, but just don’t care enough – and I do care.
Sailors, doctors, lawyers, clergy, teachers, city officials, neighbors and friends have made Wonderland Dry Cleaners their first choice for taking care of their cleaning and alteration needs for three generations. The store also offers leather and suede cleanings, boot cleanings, and wedding gown preservation.
Fanale recounted the family’s proud history of ownership during an interview this week at the famed store located at 876 Broadway. He first noted kindly that Michelle Cinelli has been a loyal 22-year employee of the store.
“We were privileged to service both Navy Yards in Charlestown and South Boston and the South Weymouth Naval Air Station back when they were in their hey-day,” recalled Fanale. American Airlines and Butler Aviation at Logan Airport have been major business customers.
And those third-generation customers – the sons and grandsons of those who knew Joseph Fanale’s beloved parents well – continue to patronize Wonderland Dry Cleaners on a regular basis.
“I have some third-generation customers that I remember their grandparents and their parents who came to the store, and now their kids are in their 20s and 30s and married,” said Fanale. “When you can look across the counter and tell a customer that you have memories of their grandfather, it lets you know that you’ve been there and you’re doing something right.”
Wonderland Dry Cleaners’ popularity extends across the entire city from neighborhood to neighborhood. Many former residents, some as far away as Woburn and Amesbury, still drop off their clothing at the store once a week.
“People have moved away but I have never lost them as customers,” he said pridefully.
Fanale said cleaning operations have improved through technological advancements in the industry. “It’s a much safer and environmentally friendly process now than it was years ago,” he said. “It used to be considered a health hazard a long time ago, but the Environmental Protection Agency has such [stringent] regulations now that it’s as harmless as any other industry.”
Joseph Fanale said he is also “proud to have survived” two quite distinct happenings in the Broadway business district through the years: When Broadway was dug up in 1986 and they had Jersey Barriers down the middle of the street – and of course, the Great Revere Tornado of 2014 that roared down the entire length of Broadway, clobbering anything in its destructive path.
“I was standing behind the counter when my sign came down and the trees started blowing by on Broadway as fast as cars go by, and both my front doors got blasted open – I had to run and grab the doors and close them and lock myself in the store,” he said of the unprecedented meteorological event for Suffolk County. “That tornado was really something.”
Joseph Fanale and his wife of “35 happy years,” Patti Fanale, have two children, Joseph Michael Fanale, 32, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and holder of undergraduate and Master’s Degrees from the University of Massachusetts/Lowell, and Kathryn Fanale, also a graduate of the University of Massachusetts/Lowell who is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Southern New Hampshire University. “And in July, we’re going to have a granddaughter, our first one,” said Fanale. “My wife and I are very, very excited to become grandparents.”