Part of a feature on White Way's 100-year anniversary, this photo ran in a March 1995 issue of the St. Paul Villager
White Way traces its history back to 1895 with the founding in Minneapolis of Despatch Laundry. The same year Elk Laundry was established in St. Paul. In those days laundry was delivered by horse-drawn wagons and sleighs, and Elk Laundry boasted the largest stable of King Phillips horses in the world. In the 1920s the horses were replaced by a fleet of lilac-colored trucks.
First neighborhood dry cleaner
Until the 1930s the dry cleaning process was limited to large central plants with delivery routes into all parts of the city. In 1935 the grandson of the original founder of Despatch developed the concept of the “package plant” or neighborhood dry cleaning store. He is credited nationally as the originator of the dry cleaning store concept. The first one in the country was a White Way, which he opened in south Minneapolis.
In 1952 White Way merged with Elk Laundry. The company continued to grow and expand during the 1960s. During this decade the company also purchased the Falcon Cleaners chain. At its peak White Way encompassed about twenty plants and over forty dry stores.
White Way today
In 1988 the business was purchased by W.W. II, Inc., a corporation dedicated to rebuilding White Way. Production was consolidated into one main plant, stores were revitalized and new ones were added. Then in November 2010, the business entered into a state-of-the-art strategic alliance with St. Croix Cleaners, adding 21st Century technology and green-cleaning practices — as well as the energy and vision to push the company forward for another 115 years.