History of Cotty's Cleaners

It was 1946 and 35 year old Alan Victor Tribble was home from the war, having served in the army and returned to Barrie, to his wife and young son John. He quickly set about the activity of finding a way to provide for his family.

Thus began Cotty’s Cleaners. Why Cotty’s? Well, nobody, except maybe the Army records, ever called Alan Victor Tribble anything but Cotty. And nobody now living, including his wife Billie, knows the origin of the nickname.

But, in 1946, at 127 Dunlop St W, Cotty started his business, right across from the Queen’s Hotel and the much larger Wrights Cleaners.

Cotty ran his cleaning operation all by himself in 1946, taking in clothes at the front of the shop, carrying them to the cellar where he did the cleaning and all the pressing. He used varsol in those days and it was cold. His wife worked in the office, and since the young company didn’t own an adding machine, both husband and wife did all the ‘toting up’ in their heads.

Some days business was good., And some days Cotty would stand at the window and watch people going in and out of George Wright’s operation. For every 10 customers that went into the shop on the sunny side of the street, one came into Cotty’s.

Like the entrepreneur he was, Cotty worked at this for a few years, watching the competition, and figuring out what he could offer that would be different than his competition. It was 1950 when he took over his parents’ house at #7 Florence St and built a modern plant at the rear of the property. The young family, now boasting 12 year old John, daughter Joan and toddler Bill, lived in the house on the property while Cotty’s Cleaners took a business turn in the back.

With a modern cleaning room, a pressing area, new boiler room and trucks on the road, Cotty’s was about to burst into Barrie’s economy. Employees were hired, the first a silk finisher. And then Stan Jones, Myrtle and Betty Hiltz, Clara Beaudin, Faye Towns, John Fish, Bill Long... the list of Cotty’s first cleaners, pressers and drivers is like a list of old friends to the company that is now history. Del Cloughley was a cleaner and then Ed Marion joined the team.

Cotty’s put trucks on the road and wooed CFB Borden for all their uniformwork. Bingo! Busy, busy, busy. By then, son John was easing into after school work behind the house, and remembers well the main business was pick-up and delivery, back in the days when people were at home to receive their dry cleaning, crinkly paper bags covering coats and suits.

Camp Borden was a big deal, in John’s memory. It took two of Cotty’s trucks to service Borden with a third doing Barrie. Still much of the business was Cash & Carry, people driving up to Florence St to pick up their laundry.

Within a decade Cotty Tribble was driving around town looking for a new location, something that would accommodate drive-in traffic and a new, modern plant. John was well into high school and his dad queried him about his work intentions. Cotty very nearly built on Bradford St., beside the old French Motors car dealership, but at the 11th hour a For Sale sign went up on an old service station, long abandoned, at 217 Dunlop St E. A square cement pad out front, and a closed mechanic’s bay. And Cotty’s friend Don Emery sold him the land that became his third plant, the drive-in location that John Tribble walked out of for the last time three weeks ago.

It was a great location, the property alone cost $25,000 and Cotty Tribble visited a new state-of-the-art plant called Jack Cook Cleaners on Yonge St in Toronto. He also asked John if he was prepared to stay in the business. With John’s affirmative answer, the decision to build a new plant moved forward.

John laughs as he remembers the flashy, new equipment being installed at this new Cotty’s. In 1960, the equipment was expensive and colourful and the equipment installers insisted in putting it all in the front window, so people could see how incredible the pressing machines were.

Three years after the new plant went into operation, Cotty Tribble died very suddenly, at age 53. And with his death a history of a tremendous athletic ability ended. Cotty loved the Barrie Flyers, excelled at baseball, hardball, boxing, lacrosse, badminton, hockey. As Cotty was buried, his friends Roy Christie, Ted Twiss and Bill Malcolmson mourned their loss.

Competition being what it was, Wrights started a new cash & carry operation down the street. And so John decided to expand into Fleetham’s empty Red & White Grocery Store at 50 Essa Rd. He and his young family moved into the apartment over the store (The Tiltin’ Hiltin, they called it) and Cotty’s first depot was born.

Then another depot on Bayfield St. Another on Cundles. Another on Bell Farm. Another on Fairview Rd. And then Wellington St where Bruce Brock operated the coin laundry and asked John to take over the dry cleaning part of the operation. His dad gone, John turned to Bruce for advice and mentorship and it proved a sturdy friendship that turned into coffee every morning before work started. Today John maintains an office at the Wellington Plaza location.

As John looks at Cotty’s 56 year history, he sees the fabulous 80’s when business almost ran itself, and then years before and since when taking a paycheque was not possible. The ups and down, the risks of where to develop and when.

And a few months ago when John was approached by long-time Barrie businessmen, he looked at his own retirement, talked with son Chris who’s really interested in the construction field, and put Cotty’s into phase three of its long life.

John’s philosophical as he looks at the waterview location so sought after by his Dad half a century ago. “It’s a beautiful location. It should be developed.”

Probably the same words his dad said 50 years ago when he eyed a closed service station and held stars in his eyes for an ultra-modern dry cleaning plant.

Thanks, John. Thanks, Cotty

Price List

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Sleeping Bags


2pc $24.80
3pc $31.22
Snowmobile $28.98
Tuxedo $33.48
Tuxedo/Tails $34.78
Silk $34.78
Jumpsuit $23.03
ADD ON's  
With Pleated Skirt $2.15
With belt $1.93
White $1.24
Lined Pant $1.35
Sleeveless $8.41
Short Sleeve $10.69
Long Sleeve $11.49
Heavy $12.17
Suede Trim $21.88
Silk $14.43
ADD ON's  
Beads and Trim $3.74
Belt $1.93
White $0.68
Plain $7.07
Silk $8.22
Suit $14.77
Spring/Fall $21.50
Trench $23.78
Winter Full Length $28.33
Winter up to 3/4 $26.61
Winter Down Full $34.25
Winter 3/4 down filled $29.70
Liner $13.76
Liner 3/4 $11.26
House Coat $14.10
House Coat 3/4 $12.17
Ski $22.06
Down Filled reg $27.08
Light Weight Jacket $18.54
Lab Coat $12.74
Chef Coat $12.74
ADD ON's  
Hood/removable $3.62
Fur collar $4.88
Belt $1.93
White $2.49
Silk $1.24
Launder/Pressed $3.85
Folded $5.17
Tux Shirt $4.51
Dry Cleaned $7.03
Silk $8.48
Hunting $8.24
Hunting Heavy $9.69
Hand Pressed $7.03
Golf Shirt $5.99
ADD ON's  
Crease Sleeves $0.87
Collar Tabs $0.87
White $0.33
Short $17.95
Long $19.27
Accordion $30.95
2pc $28.53
Cocktail $26.87
Fancy $30.95
Gown $43.40
2pc Gown $49.68
Choir Gown $24.23
Wedding Gown $223.46
Wedding Gown Boxed $261.19
Silk $35.91
ADD ON's  
Shoulder pads $1.42
Beading/Fancy Trim $4.18
Belt $1.86
White $1.86
Lining $2.40
Sleeveless $6.49
Short Sleeve $6.83
Long Sleeve $7.03
Silk $10.34
Fancy $11.55
ADD ON's  
Beading/fancy Trim $1.64
Frills $1.64
White $0.33
Shoulder pads $0.66
Plain $8.52
Long $10.04
Pleated $15.46
Accordion $21.84
Silk $14.89
Velvet $16.14
ADD ON's  
Lining $1.24
White $0.91
Slacks $10.04
Hunting $10.79
Shorts $8.22
Ski $16.93
Coveralls $19.49
Winter Coveralls $28.65
Silk $10.91
ADD ON's  
Beading $1.65
Lined $1.24
Belt $1.91
White $1.01
Suit  $8.08
Fleece $12.51
Winter $15.12
Winter Down $17.40
Short $17.94
Long $22.86
Place Mat $4.54
Bed Skirt $14.89
Pillow Shamey $5.45
Table Runner $12.39
Table Cloth Lg. $20.03
Table Cloth Med. $17.87
Table Cloth Sm. $15.46
Chair cover $12.74
Mattress Cover $17.98
Arm Covers $4.88
Chesterfield $30.03
Love seat $23.21
Cushion Covers $9.32
Lined $0.73
Unlined $0.62
Single $19.23
Double $20.48
Queen $21.84
King $23.21
Single $29.00
Double $31.75
Queen $33.69
King $37.20
Down Filled    $42.22
Down Filled Qu/King $47.10
Duvet Cover $29.67
Feather Bed $68.90
Sleeping Bags 
Single $28.44
Double $33.45
Single Down $41.66
Double Down $46.42
Hankie $2.37
Base ball $7.62
Toque $6.83
Tilly $7.73
Shawl $14.44
Apron $9.32
Judges Robe $18.66
Scarf $5.57
Silk Scarf $8.41

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Q. How should I decide which dry cleaner to use?

Professional dry cleaners are responsible individuals who care about their customer, the environment, and their employees.

Look for a cleaner who is part of professional associations.

Associations provide relevant information to their members about fashions and fabrics, the latest in equipment, laws and regulations pertaining to the garment care industry. Organizations like the Ontario Fabricare Association and the Drycleaners & Launderers Institute send out newsletters and trade magazines filled with important information to keep a good cleaner abreast of industry developments.

Look for a Certified Environmental cleaner.

Environmental rules and regulations are a prime concern to every professional dry cleaner. If a cleaner displays an OFA decal on the door or window, you know he/she is a Certified Environmental Cleaner.

Attention to detail is important.

Does the Dry Cleaner remove the stain without damaging the garment? Does he give an explanation if the stain is not removed? If you request special treatment (extra starch, etc.) are your wishes carried out? Professionals know you are the reason they are in business, and treat you accordingly.

Don't be dismayed by a request for a release form to be signed.

Care labels are sewn in garments by the manufacturer to provide information about fabric content and a suitable method for cleaning the garment. There are occasions when a cleaner will ask a customer to sign a release form. This may be due to a missing care label, or trim that is not covered by the information on the care label. The request reflects the care the cleaner is taking with your garment -- they've read the label, know what they're doing, but can't control situations that might arise from manufactured difficulties.

Look for a cleaner who is consistently doing a good job.

Garments are inspected before they are returned to the customers. There should be no damage to garments by stapling tags through fabric or labels. To prevent wrinkling, the correct number of garments and their accessories are placed in the same poly bag.

A good cleaner is a careful cleaner.

When no care label exists to determine a suitable cleaning method, a good cleaner will test the fabric on an unexposed seam or area of the item . The cleaner classifies every load by colour and material (a raincoat and a silk blouse would not be cleaned together). Sometimes this means you can't get a garment back in a couple of hours. But it does mean he/she is taking good care of it.

Cheaper isn't always better.

The biggest danger to clothes is a cleaner who tries to cut costs by cutting corners. Quality cleaners add soap and sizing to their solvent to enhance cleaning and give the clothes additional body. Be realistic in what you expect to be done for the price you are paying.

Customer service is important.

A professional dry cleaner will not make promises he/she cannot keep. If a problem does occur, they will work with you to find an equitable solution. Most dry cleaners will use an industry standard method such as the Dry Cleaners & Launderers Institute fair claims guide.