Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail. Today we’re taking a look at a Katy Freeway icon while we still have the chance. Gorman’s Cleaners exists essentially frozen in time and has been so since opening nearly 70 years ago. Back in the 1930s, when I-10 was little more than a distant dream, the road that Gorman’s sits on, referred to then as Katy Road (Modern U.S. 90), was a small country road running parallel to the MKT railroad which lended the Road and later freeway the Katy name. As Houston expanded West, houses began to dot the edge of the country road, taking over the farms which had dominated the area. By the 50s, the homes in the area had overtaken just about everything else. Being just outside of Houston city limits, the homeowners in the area decided to try and incorporate themselves as a city to provide police, fire, water, and other services to the residents. A first attempt to incorporate the entire Spring Branch area failed, so Hedwig Village would try again on its own and succeed. The tiny city would be described as being a slice of country life, despite the suburbs already starting to sprawl past. This reputation, and the conveniences of a city, began to draw more and more people to the area. To keep up with this demand, Hedwig Village would build a new shopping center, a highly themed property, which would become home to Gorman’s Cleaners.
Opening in 1948 and originally known as Gorman’s Community Cleaners, the family-owned business provided a bright centerpiece for the new shopping facing the new Katy Freeway (still U.S. 90 at the time). The bright neon sign was one of the last you’d see before entering the loop. The Gorman’s personality would peek through with cheeky and inspirational marquee messages from the start all the way until the end. The Gorman family would put their heart and soul into the business, being recognized as one of Houston’s best cleaners. This business would develop a brand identity beyond the storefront, with its recognizable vans servicing clients all over Houston. The company would eventually expand into Uniform Rentals and commercial Linen Servicing. Gorman’s was easily one of the single most important companies in Hedwig Village. Not only were they a large employer, but they were one of the town’s longest-lasting companies. The Gorman family remained at the helm the entire time, passing the business down from generation to generation. However, in 2022 the Gormans would sell their Uniform Rental business to national operator Cintas. It’s unclear if the sale included the consumer cleaning business, but what is apparent is that the facility was shared, and with Gorman’s out of a plant, they decided to shut down, leaving the facility vacant for over a year. As of 2023, the Gorman family does still appear to own and operate their linen service down the street.