I confess to uttering a mild expletive when my phone rang and I saw that it was Faulkner’s Cleaners on Lower Greenville. I forget a lot, and I wondered what dry-cleaning items I had forgotten about this time.
I’d been David Faulkner’s customer since 2003, when we moved to Dallas, and because I follow the old adage, “anything that has to be ironed has to be dry cleaned,” I was one of his better customers — though more than once, I’d failed to pick up my cleaning after asking for a rush job. I hate when I do that, but his calls were never a reminder to get my stuff; they were a sincere concern confirming that everything was all right.
But when he called this time, he sounded different. His voice was emotional.
“Mrs. Havlick, I just wanted to personally let you know that I’m closing my business.”
Always striving to be an optimist, I asked, “Oh! Are you retiring?”
“No, I’m not,” he replied, “I’ve been asked by my landlord to leave.”
Faulkner’s on Lower Greenville (not to be confused with Faulkner’s Fine Dry Cleaning in Lakewood) was the only cleaners in Dallas I had ever patronized. I first went to him because his shop was conveniently down the road. Soon David knew our family by name, and our relationship progressed to the point that I never had to take an inventory slip of what I dropped off because I trusted it would all be there when I picked up.
Faulkner’s storefront had been a fixture for decades. David built his shop from the ground up, and he established a long list of committed clientele. Like most small business owners, he cared about the people he served because they were the ones who sustained him.
He was there when the M Streets wasn’t the most desirable neighborhood. And what’s his reward now that it is? The landlord nearly tripled his rent. He relayed that, after a lengthy negotiation, the two couldn’t come to an agreement, and he was told to vacate. He had no choice but to close his shop, sell his equipment and find a job.
As much as I enjoy our cool new local establishments, I don’t want the old ones to go.
Like our neighbors throughout East Dallas, I’ve enjoyed witnessing our property values steadily appreciate. Yes, we’re still waiting for many of our roads to be repaved courtesy of the 2017 bond, but the crime rate continues to drop, and we’ve seen spotty areas get cleaned up, with Lowest Greenville being a great example. Thanks to former City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, the strip is no longer solely a den for drunken debauchery but is today a destination for families well into the evening (yet still an opportunity for drunken debauchery after nightfall).
I can’t help but feel a deep sense of hypocrisy as I think about David Faulkner’s fate.
As much as I enjoy our cool new local establishments, I don’t want the old ones to go. What brought many of us to this part of town is the character and intimacy these businesses offer. They’re owned and run by our neighbors and friends and parents at our kids’ schools. If we didn’t know them before, we’ve made friends with those who opened their doors to us. They care about our community, and we care about them.
It’s ironic that the very fabric of the neighborhood that made us want to live here in the first place is unraveling. Perhaps it’s the natural consequence of capitalism and a free market, but it’s still difficult to witness.
I don’t know what could have changed things for David Faulkner. Our community did everything we were supposed to — we consistently frequented his small business, and we stayed committed when more options became available.
There are postings on NextDoor echoing my sentiments and asking, “Now where do we go?”
I don’t have the answer. I’m asking, too — where do we go from here?
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.