A longtime fixture of Hyde Park, the small business district in Boise’s North End, will soon close its doors.
Certified Inc. Rug & Furniture Cleaners, at 1509 N. 13th St., is winding down after 67 years. Its owner, Jerry Dunne, a North End native, is retiring.
Dunne, who at first says, “Hey, I don’t give my age out to ladies,” when asked his age, admits he’s 68. He can rattle off rug varieties as easily as someone else might count to 10: “Orientals, silk, mercerized cotton, Navajo, Berber, braided, hooked, reversible decors, sheepskin, jute, needlepoint, flokati, chenille, sisal, dhurrie, kilim.”
Dannelle Hayes, who’s been Certified’s lead upholstery technician for 22 years, calls Dunne a true diplomat. He has the rare gift of always being able to see things from another person’s perspective, she said.
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“He’s been such a pleasure to work for,” Hayes said. “We’re like a family.”
Dunne also owns the 4,200-square-foot building that houses the cleaning business. He is selling that, too. He said it is under contract with a potential buyer.
What will it become? “That’s a good question,” Dunne said.
The property is in a prime location mid-block between Hyde Perk Coffee House and North End Pizza.
Dunne and his wife, Denise, a fellow Boise native, own a parking lot just around the corner, between 13th and 14th Street on Alturas Street. Dunne bought the lot in the 1990s for his employees. It will be included in the sale.
The Dunnes are among Hyde Park’s longtime anchors (though not as longtime as Riebe’s Shoe Repair, in business for six generations). Hyde Park was the city’s first “industrial district outside of Downtown,” said Dave Green, third generation Idahoan and proprietor of The North End, a neighborhood website.
“It’s been hard for me to turn the business over ... because of the longevity of our family,” said Dunne, whose immaculate white shirt has “Jerry” embroidered over one breast pocket and “Certified, Inc.” over the other.
‘If the world was like them, there wouldn’t be any wars’
His grandfather, Billy Dunne, started in the Boise laundry business in 1908. He drove a horse-drawn cart to make his pickups and deliveries for Troy Laundry, headquartered in Boise’s Linen District. When Billy Dunne retired in the 1950s, the Idaho Statesman ran a story about him on its “Pioneer Page.” The story is framed, hanging among the few items that still decorate the shop’s walls.
Billy’s son, Frank, and his business partner, Bill Simpson, bought the 13th Street shop in 1950. They adopted the name Certified and began specializing in rug cleaning.
Jerry Dunne bought the business and the property in 1990. He attributes his success to longtime staffers like Hayes, and Phil Wilson, whose Certified business card reads, “Rug Specialist.” Frank Dunne, who died in 2014 at age 95, hired Wilson 37 years ago.
“Of all the jobs I’ve had, Frank and Jerry are the two finest employers I’ve ever had. To the point of being fatherly,” Wilson said. “They’re like ‘old school’ people. If the whole world was like them, there wouldn’t be wars. They’re the kind of people you can make deals with handshakes.”
Dunne said his father, a lifelong resident of the North End, used to regale Wilson and the other employees with stories of old Boise, when the city ended at 17th and Main streets, and when Dunne and others used to ski down Camel’s Back Hill on barrel staves.
Wilson will retire when Jerry Dunne retires.
“I would tell Jerry, ‘When you decide to leave, don’t close the door, because I’ll be right there behind you,’” Wilson said.
Nicest men in the world
Since announcing his retirement, sending out notes to clients with their invoices, Dunne has received lots of mail from customers, wishing him well, thanking him for all the good work over the years. One client even paid for the staff to go to lunch at Casa Mexico up the block.
When longtime customer Darleen Imhoff heard the news, she was unequivocal. “You can’t do that to me,” she said.
She was born in South Boise in the 1930s and attended North Junior High. She and her late husband, Joe Imhoff, a lawyer, raised their family in Boise.
“I had many friends who lived here when Boise just had 30,000 people,” Imhoff said. “They all had Jerry’s dad doing their cleaning for them.”
She knew Dunne’s father and his partner, Simpson. “They were two of the nicest men in the whole world,” Imhoff said, “even to the naughty little kids who ran down the alley and destroyed things.”
Certified stopped making pickups and deliveries in August and stopped taking new jobs in September. The shop is nearly empty now, except for a small pyramid of cleaned rugs along one wall, waiting for owners to pick them up, and relics of the trade: books titled, “Wetcleaning,” and “Better Laundering,” and a holder for the time cards of the few employees who remain.
Dunne has not set a closing date. The company will survive for a while as he collects his last bills and sends out his last invoices. One employee, Austin Tromberg, with the company for 10 years, plans to continue part of the business, cleaning wall-to-wall carpets in homes.
Dannelle Hayes will look for a new job. The cleaning business, making soiled things look new again, comes with a lot of satisfaction, she said.
When Jerry Dunne closes Certified, he will take one of the actual doors — painted in bright yellow script with the shop name and business hours — as a keepsake.
“I’m looking forward to retirement in some respects,” Dunne said. “I’ll be able to spend more time with my family.”
That includes two daughters, Angelina Briggs and Dominica Mathiason.
“But I’m going to miss this. Because of great employees. Because of the customers. Don’t make me think about it.”
Anna Webb: 208-377-6431, @Anna_Webb_Boise