Larry Collins, 1954-2011, Drycleaner to Politicos, Friend to Many (UPDATE 1)
UPDATE 1: Statement from Councilman Willis:
“He was an all-around great guy. He was very thoughtful- he treated every one of his customers the same, if you were a City Councilmember or an attorney or a judge, you felt like you were walking into Cheers, because everybody knew your name,” Willis said.
“He also understood how to treat his customers… he treated his customers extremely well. You always hear people talk about humble servants. Typically, with business owners it’s hard for them to think of themselves as humble servants. You can see in it in the character of his sons… who are very sensitive and very thoughtful people.”
(APN) ATLANTA — Larry Collins, who ran the historic Sig Samuels drycleaner in Midtown Atlanta, has died after a battle with ALS also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
In a gentrifying, growingly fast-paced Midtown, Collins and his family ran an old-fashioned business. Collins knew customers by name, accepted cash and checks only, and let customers keep a tab and pay on their own schedule.
Major elected officials, including Black Democrats like US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), former Dekalb County CEO Vernon Jones, and Atlanta City Councilman Lamar Willis (Post 3-at-large) were among the politicos spotted picking up their drycleaning at Sig Samuels.
And so, if there was one person who knew all about Atlanta politicians’ dirty laundry, it was Collins; and none of it was aired publicly.
On Wednesday, March 16th, Collins lost his battle with ALS.
About two years ago, Collins began noticing a weakness in his legs. After several different medicals tests, doctors determined he had ALS, a terminal disease which affects the functioning of various muscles in the body.
In November 2010, Collins’s family and supporters participated in the Georgia ALS Walk at Centennial Park. Midtown residents, including the present writer, raised over 10,000 dollars for ALS research during the walk.
Larry’s Team was one of the top ten fundraisers in Georgia, according to the ALS Association.
Collins was born at Emory hospital on July 17, 1954.
According to a notice from the family, “Larry had a distinct and captivating personality that was never more evident than when Larry was behind the counter at Sig Samuels dry cleaners.”
“His father Tom took over Sig Samuels in the sixties and Larry, and two brothers Tom and Mike, worked along side their father until taking over for him in the early 90’s,” the family notice said.
“For 35 years he was the face and voice of a dry cleaner which became an institution in midtown Atlanta. Larry’s warm smile, kind words, and all around friendly demeanor made him a bright spot in so many days,” the family notice said.
In 2006, Collins got into a dispute with the City of Atlanta, when the City decided to put in a proper sidewalk in front of the dry cleaners on Monroe Drive.
At one point, Collins parked his car on the place where the sidewalk was supposed to go, and the whole incident got the attention of the local television news.
The City of Atlanta issued a statement over the sidewalk dispute. “The City believes that the use of the public right of way at Sig Samuels as a parking pad is detrimental to pedestrian safety in the Monroe Drive vicinity, including access to Grady High School. Its longstanding use as a parking pad has created no right to continued use because such an easement cannot lie against public property. The City has attempted to resolve this situation with the owners, but they have made no effort to mitigate the parking situation.”
Collins said that he did not appreciate the City just moving forward on plans for a sidewalk without consulting with him, as there had been no sidewalk there for many decades.
Eventually, the sidewalk did go in and the dry cleaners lost a bit of parking in front of the store.
“The only thing Larry loved more than the cleaners was his family. He lived a life of hard work, dignity, honor, and sincerity. The only thing more solid than Larry’s character was his word,” the family notice said.
“He always went out of his way for others, sparing no expense to make someone else’s life better. He was loved by countless people and will be missed by many more,” the family notice said.
He is survived by his mother, Mary Collins; his wife Sheila Collins; his two sons, Steve and Adam Collins; and his three brothers Tom, Mike, and Jim Collins.
Funeral Services were held earlier today, Saturday March 19, 2011 at 12:00 noon, at H.M. Patterson & Son Spring Hill Chapel.
In Lieu of flowers donations may be made to Emory ALS Center, in care of Barry M. Steig.
(END / 2011)