Of her 75 years of living in her birthplace of Jamaica and then in Houston, Lucille Bariffe says, “I have not regretted one moment of my life.”

But now she faces hard choices about her laundry business in the 5 Corners Improvement District.

Her humble, brick shop is a block east of South Post Oak Road near Sims Bayou. It’s called Gibson’s Cleaners, though a sign in the front window says L.O.A.D. Dry Cleaners (thanks to people who leased it from her for a while).

Bariffe said her business has never fully recovered from the COVID pandemic, when many people worked from home and had less need for wearing fancy clothing.

She said she has very little money to replace or repair worn-out equipment such as a ragged-looking boiler that provides steam for pressing and hot water for a washing machine. Meanwhile, the era of doing business with local — and locally owned — businesses for the sake of the neighborhood has lost some steam, too.

If that kind of support doesn’t return, she said, she may have to close the shop, where she handles all of the cleaning and pressing on site while her one employee handles sewing and other tasks. They also clean home items such as drapes and curtains.

And yet, some things about the neighborhood near Lawson Middle School have changed for the better recently, she said.

Before, a few robbers confronted her in the store and demanded cash at gunpoint. (“I gave {one} a few dollars and told him, ‘You know there’s not a lot of money here,’ “ she said).

Other things back then were endearing. Bariffe said she often watched over children playing in the neighborhood.

“They called me mama, (and) they would respect me,” she said.

Now some threats to her safety have gradually melted away, she said — in line with statistics that show the 5 Corners District is relatively a lower crime area. (The District’s public safety initiatives include employing a private security force that patrols commercial corridors).

At the same time, Bariffe said she misses the demand for cleaning services that came with the presence of “hustlers” in the area — men wearing flashy, expensive clothes that needed frequent cleaning and care so they could continue making quick deals.

If her business were to receive a sudden onrush of customers, she’ll be ready. Bariffe said her first jobs in Houston involved dealing with high-volume work as manager of laundry operations at three luxury hotels in the Galleria area.

Also, 5 Corners District Chairman Homer Clark pointed out another motive for residents to do business with Bariffe.

“In addition to providing outstanding cleaning service to the community, Gibson’s Cleaners was one the original supporters of our vision to create the district,” he said.

For now, Bariffe is grateful for the loyalty of longtime customers such as lawyers, pastors, civic activists, and retired teachers.

“If they are your clothes then I treat them as my clothes,” she said. “That’s my policy.”

Gibson’s Cleaners
5431 Heatherbrook Drive
Open M-F 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Sat. 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.