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Regalados to close cleaners and move to Mexico

by Sheila Gardner

For nearly 30 years, Jose and Alma Regalado have watched the passing parade on Esmeralda Avenue from behind the counter at the Vogue Cleaners. They have seen to the needs of a generation of residents, helping their customers get ready for proms, weddings and funerals as well as the day-to-day activities that go on in a town like Minden.

That will all come to an end April 30 as the Regalados close the business and prepare to go back to Mexico.

“We’re going home,” says Alma, whose distinctive accent belies the fact that she was born in Butte, Mont. “It’s time.”

Between the two of them, the Regalados have 75 years in the dry-cleaning business, beginning in San Jose, Calif. They moved to Minden in 1971 and took over the old dry cleaners, which has been an Esmeralda Avenue anchor for 60 years, sharing the block with the Minden Inn and across the street from the C.O.D. Garage and the Pony Express restaurant.

The building is showing its age, and the Regalados say it would cost too much money to make the repairs.

They survived permanent press and wash-and-wear, admitting that while the dry-cleaning business has had its ups and downs, “we were able to make a living.”

Besides keeping the Regalados on their feet all day, the Vogue Cleaners is open six days a week.

“You have to be available to people,” Jose said. “They need their things for special occasions. We tried to provide the best value and service for the dollar.”

They raised two sons, Elias, an engineer in the aerospace industry in San Jose, and Jose Jr., who helps out with the business and will go to Mexico with them.

“It’s a very demanding business,” Alma said. “We treat each item as if it belonged to us.”

Jose does the cleaning and Alma works behind the counter, dispensing homespun theology with clean garments.

“The Lord has something else for me,” she said. “I am already part of a church in Mexico. There are a lot of ladies and we praise the Lord and give thanks, and pray to give sick people comfort and strength.

“Wherever we go, the Lord is there. We don’t worry. I trust the Lord,” she said.

n Warm welcome. The Regalados also provided support to Hispanic families who were new arrivals to the Carson Valley.

“We would take people to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to help them get drivers’ licenses and write letters for immigration,” she said.

Alma was a major force behind the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival sponsored by St. Gall Catholic Church for several years.

“I love to cook,” she said, adding that she met Jose while she was a waitress in a Mexican restaurant in San Jose.

The Regalados say they are joining a growing number of people who are retiring to Mexico. They plan to stay in Texas part time as well.

“I think if people had the ability to make a living there (in Mexico), they would never leave,” she said. “They want to live there.”

Jose was quick to point out the Regalados’ gratitude for the chance to live in the United States.

He came to America to join relatives in San Jose from the small coastal town of Autlan. He was raised in Guadalajara and Alma in nearby Monterrey, Mexico, despite the fact she was born in the United States. Her father served in the U.S. military in World War II.

“When I left Mexico, I had no skills, and my English was non-existent,” Jose said. “This is a great country. There is a lot of opportunity for people who want to study and get ahead with their education.”

Jose’s first view of Carson Valley was from old Kingsbury Grade during a snowstorm.

“When I saw what the population was, I thought, ‘What kind of business can I do here?’ I did a lot of casino work. It kept us going for some years until the population grew a little,” Jose said.

n Miss the customers. “I’m really thankful that we came to this small community,” Alma said. “I am going to miss the people so much. The customers have been wonderful.

As Alma reflected on her years behind the orange and black counter at the Vogue Cleaners, Virginia Oas of Minden came to drop off a bundle of clothes, as she has done for 26 years.

“I don’t know what I am going to do when you leave,” she said. “Go dirty, I guess.”