You can stay in the Abused By Mike Club. You just can't do it at Classic Cleaners anymore.
Mike Pavone, the famously gruff proprietor of the Centre Street landmark, has sold the family business after 61 years of a Pavone being behind the counter.
The neighborhood staple is staying a family enterprise. Pavone sold to the Hong family, which already runs Ideal Cleaners in JP and Best Cleaners in Brookline.
Asked why he sold now, Pavone said all those years on your feet take their toll.
"Forty years did it," he said on Thursday as he wrapped up a few loose ends at the 650 Centre St. location his father, Al, bought with partner Chico Bosco back in 1953.
Pavone, 58, is a tough guy but admits to a catalog of health woes. There's his asthma (aggravated during summer when thoughtless drivers kept their vehicles running outside the cleaner's windows under the "No Idling" sing) and varicose veins, to name two. Those challenges don't keep him off the golf course or even out of the crease. That's right, at 58, Pavone still plays goalie during pick-up ice hockey games at the Babson Rink in Wellesley. Against guys in their 40s.
'I Would Never Pick on First-Timers'
If you're a regular at Classic Cleaners, you know about the Abused By Mike Club. It's pretty straight-forward. If you've suffered ribbing at his hands, you can join.
"I would never pick on first-timers," Pavone said. "We had a lot of fun."
Pavone said he hasn't had a non-vacation Saturday off for 50 years. That's 2,496 Saturdays since he was 10 and started helping his dad around the cleaners. For the last 28 years, Patricia Carmichael has helped run the business.
Pavone's seen the neighborhood change a lot over those years since graduating from Catholic Memorial and going into the dry cleaning business full-time.
"Jamaica Plain used to be a blue-collar town," Pavone said, "but it evolved into the hotbed that it is today."
Pavone doesn't say whether that's good or bad. The neighborhood has just changed. For instance, Centre Street is all about banks and restaurants now. There used to be a wider diversity of shops, Pavone said, like a candy shop, delis, Harry's Hardware, Today's Bread, the Army/Navy store, Kennedy's Butter and Eggs, the list goes on.
New Owners Plan to Modernize
Under the Hongs' management, changes are already underway. Alex Hong, who will run the cleaners with his father Steve and mother Jenny, said a new computer system is already in place. New equipment is on the way. They aim to continue the traditions of Classic Cleaners while modernizing the place.
Hong said the family would try to "keep up the customer service that Mike and Pat have always delivered."
Hong and Pavone declined to detail how much they bought and sold for.
'I'm Going to Miss Everyone'
Pavone said he doesn't have firm plans for retirement except doing a few side jobs and trying to lower his golf score.
"I'm going to miss everyone," Pavone said, apologizing to the community there hasn't been longer to say goodbyes.
Pavone, who lives in Roslindale, will still be around the neighborhood a bit. He'll just have Saturdays when he actually golf or get in some ice time.