Founded in 1970 by Margaret Ponder, the family-owned Ponder’s 60 Minute Cleaners has survived for five decades. That’s thanks largely in part to Margaret Ponder’s son, Roderick Ponder, who for many of those years has maintained the Black-owned establishment at 4473 Campbellton Road in Atlanta. The cleaners received a bit of viral attention recently after Roderick Ponder’s niece, Leigh Johnson, tweeted about the business’ current financial woes.
“Since everyone was thinking of directing their monies towards Black communities and Black businesses,” said Johnson, a third-generation Ponder, “I took it upon myself to put out our name and our mission and the things we were struggling with on social media.”
The June 2 Twitter post caught the attention of Atlanta native, rapper, activist, and businessman Michael “Killer Mike” Render, who shared it that same day with his 1.5 million Instagram followers. He posted: “Headed there this week to drop off my clothes. #SupportBlackBusinesses.”
Like most dry cleaners, Ponder’s 60 Minutes Cleaners, reportedly considered the oldest black-owned dry cleaners in Atlanta, has struggled financially because of the industry’s decline.
Add to that equation a global pandemic to the equation — that has forced people to shelter-in-place and work from home during this already fragile economy.
“When COVID hit that was like a nail in the coffin,” said Roderick Ponder. “It was nothing we had ever experienced before.”
Faced with having to decide between staying in business or closing before the COVID pandemic, the community’s quick response and reception has made that decision clearer for them.
“Today, we sit here as a by-product of just how supportive the Black-community is,” said Ponders.
As a result of the community’s support, Ponder’s Cleaners has enough work to share with fellow struggling cleaning businesses, through subcontracting, to help those businesses during this time.
Additionally, the Ponder family has a GoFundMe page, and funds through that, the family says, will go toward revitalizing the 50-year-old business’s infrastructure and equipment.
“Him [Uncle Rod] being the one who has kept it open all of these years,” said Leigh, “I feel as though my grandmother is extremely proud.”