10 Questions for a Broadway Pro: This guy cleans up on Broadway.

Bruce Barish and his wife Sarah could be the busiest couple on Broadway.  What do they do?  Well, you know how most theater folk are night owls?  Well, these two can’t be . . . because if they slept in, 80% of Broadway would be naked.

The Barishes are Ernest Winzer Cleaners . . . THE Broadway dry cleaners.  I know, you’ve probably never even thought about who dry cleans Broadway costumes before, have you?  Well, someone has to, believe me, because after a few Fosse-like dance numbers, these outfits can be so soaked with sweat, they could practically do pirouettes on their own.

Why does Winzer control such a large part of the market?  Well, they do a great job, duh, but more importantly, they care.  Period.  And Bruce, Sarah and the entire staff at EW care about every costume they work on like they designed it themselves and they have to wear it themselves.

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Bruce Barish, this week’s Broadway Pro!

1. What is your title?

Owner/Operator of Ernest Winzer Dry Cleaner.

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

We normally dry clean 75-80% of the costumes for all Broadway productions, as well as Radio City, television, movies, concerts and mascots.

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

I am the Captain of the Ship that makes sure my entire staff of 17 employees not only dry clean the costumes properly but makes sure they are delivered back to the theaters in time for the daily productions.

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

Time management would be number one on the list that would also include multi-tasking skills as well as organizational know how.  I also understand the science and chemistry behind the dry cleaning process and stain removal process and the delicate fabrics that we see on a daily basis.  Lastly, I possess the knowledge behind the mechanics of the equipment in my dry cleaning facility.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

I have worked here my entire life learning every aspect of the business from the front office to picking up the shows to cleaning and spotting the assortment of costumes we see every day.

6. What was your first job in theater?

Ernest Winzer Cleaners has been dry cleaning Broadway costumes since 1908.  We are the longest running production on Broadway.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It is an important part of the fabric of New York City history.  I can relate to “The city that never sleeps.”  Just this past year, we delivered in the Christmas Blizzard of 2010 and the Hurricane of 2011, both of which shut down NYC but not Ernest
Winzer Cleaners.

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Continuously trying to find the best ways to get costumes cleaned in a green environmentally conscious way.  If it’s Green, but does not clean properly or safely then it is not for me and my customers.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

This does not apply to the industry as much as to the city that we work in, but it would be nice if when I was delivering an entire production of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular that a New York City police officer would not write my trucks parking tickets.

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

Be prepared to be fully committed to the industry 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Our job is to take the worry of caring for the costumes away from the wardrobe department. You have to love what you are doing and who you are performing for because “The Show Must Go On”!


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  • Jennica says:

    I love that you profile so many different people in your business. It’s so important to recognize everyone who works to make a show come off- and it helps to educate everyone about the big picture. Thanks!!

  • Ed K. says:

    Really nice piece on Bruce Barish for something most people take for granted- so this helped shine the spotlight on a key behind-the-scenes player.
    I liked his comment that theater “is an important part of the fabric of New York City history.”
    A little dry cleaning humor there, I guess.

  • This is why I love your blog– a piece like this has so much heart, which ummm . . . reflects positively on the author.

  • Margie says:

    Hey, Ken,
    How about a different feature on a behind-the-curtain player each week — an electrician, property master/mistress, stage manager, lighting designer, blah blah blah. But you should also video the interviews and shoot some B-roll and cut them into a little piece so you cantake all the interviews and turn them into Broadway’s first video ezine or online book. And you can add Broadway stars too — for ALL the shows. EVERYONE will read it! And of course, your online advertisers will be — producers just like you! (much cheaper than advertising on TV).

  • Matt says:

    Bravo Bruce Barish!

  • Shannon D. says:

    I actually always wondered “where” the costumes went and how they got back so quickly!
    And, I try to figure out how many of the same costumes they have… for every u/s and a possible “back up” if something ever happened to the original.
    Thanks for a great piece!

  • I do not even know how I finished up right here, but I thought this post was once good. I don’t know who you are but certainly you’re going to a well-known blogger in case you are not already. Cheers!

  • Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

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