Sr. Maria Francis and I walked into Stoltz Cleaners and met with Joel Tracy, the owner. His warm smile made us feel very welcome. When I asked if he would be willing to dry clean 1 or 2 church vestments every other month, he asked, “Are you looking for a reduced price or free?” “Free, of course,” I said. “Oh, Sister,” Joel responded, “I can do better than that; I can clean them all, and it will be a donation.” He gave us our marching orders – 4 green and 2 white to begin, and we will then go from there. We began taking the vestments, 3 or 4 vestments at a time, to his cleaning facility within that same week. There were times when he wasn’t available, but when he was, we were always greeted with the most beautiful smile.
Who is this man? What is he all about?
Joel Tracy and his family operate Stoltz Cleaners located on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, MN. “Why Stoltz Cleaners, when your name is Tracy”, I asked. “Well,” he said, “my dad was able to purchase Stoltz years ago. We thought about changing the name, however, Stoltz had been here for a number of years, had a good name and a good reputation. So, we decided to leave it as is. Stoltz Cleaners has been on the corner for 32 years, and we still get asked how Mr. Stoltz is doing.”
I spotted a picture on the wall of an elderly man, family members and a flag in a triangular shaped frame. I asked Joel about it, and he said, “I press flags.” “What an unusual thing,” I thought. So, I questioned him further. “Fifteen years ago a gentleman from Willwerscheid Funeral Home came in the store with an American flag which was to drape the casket of one of our veterans who had recently died. The American flag is so large, but the Government packages the flags in very small boxes. The flag had many wrinkles. I told the gentleman I would press the flag, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Many different types of clothing were hanging on racks; my eyes focused on the number of military uniforms. “What about those uniforms?” I asked. “Do you have many military men and women coming here to get them cleaned?” Joel told us he does all the military uniforms without charge. “That is the least I can do for those who serve our country and keep freedom alive,” he said. I questioned Joel further about the uniform cleaning, and he told me he does ALL kinds of uniforms at a reduced cost. This kind gesture began 25 years ago when a flight attendant came into the store to get her uniform cleaned. Since then Joel has done uniforms for pilots, policemen, firemen, “anyone with a uniform to be cleaned will be done at a reduced cost. Even detectives on the police force who wear regular clothing”.
Joel has a very simple philosophy about life – “If you are not happy, why are you here? We need to be happy and spread it among others. If everyone is thinking good thoughts and has good vibes, I believe that is real and it helps.”
On September 29 of this year Joel will be married 33 years. The couple have 4 daughters and 2 sons. Their younger son has just been deployed to Afghanistan. “Our entire family will pray for him and worry about him the entire time he is gone,” Joel said. The other members of the family work with Joel in the cleaning store.
Before leaving the store, I asked Joel his wife’s name. “Marie,” he said, “and I want you to know I wouldn’t be anything without her.
Who is this man? What is he all about? Joel is a man of faith, love and happiness. It is not what he does that matters; it is who he is.