Eddy Beaurain has been fighting dirt for more than 30 years. Pressing n° 1, the dry cleaning business he set up in 1979, is a trustworthy address, enviably located on Rue Antoine Dansaertstraat, Brussels’ fashion epicentre. A former civil servant, Beaurain got bored with red tape, office hours and paperwork. He wanted to be in touch with people and thought dry cleaning could do the trick. “When I was a kid, I lived in the neighbourhood and my parents used to bring their clothes here. They were sent elsewhere for cleaning and they’d come back to collect them after a few days. When I took over from the previous owner, I set up a workshop at the back, allowing us to do everything on the spot. We got regular business fairly quickly, enabling me to hire more staff.” There’s something real and charismatic about Beaurain. Besides his affable manner and openness, he comes across as a sincere and hard-working guy.

“I always find solutions when it comes to dirt. In dry-cleaning, milk and biro are the biggest challenges.”

The fact that he’s been on Rue Antoine Dansaertstraat for so long gives him a unique insight into the life of the street “It changed so much here,” he explains. “I’m 57 now and remember how it was. There were mainly craftsmen. Some were making watches, others were running small ateliers for leather goods and crocodile bracelets. Stijl was one of the first designer boutiques to open in 1984. Sonja Noël (owner of Stijl and Haleluja) is still a client of mine. Theatre companies – such as La Monnaie / De Munt – began working with me, too. I’ve always dealt with creative people and they are very loyal clients.” Never defeated when it comes to stains, he rarely refuses to clean clothes. He doesn’t seem to object to the obsessive habits of some of his clients either. “I always find solutions when it comes to dirt. In dry-cleaning, milk and biro are the biggest challenges. Some folks complain constantly, but they keep on coming back. Others bring things that don’t even need cleaned. We have a guy who drops a bag of white underwear every week. It’s always the same brand and the same amount of briefs. Another elderly man has one black shirt he gets cleaned on a regular basis. The week after, he comes back with the same shirt and a silk white tie. It’s like a ritual and has been going on for years. When the shirt starts falling apart, he has the same one made at a tailor’s he knows.”

As clothing deals with privacy and intimacy, clients start opening up after a while, becoming friends with Beaurain and his staff. “People will talk about personal matters behind the counter. They feel we can be trusted and that we listen to them. Clients become friends after a while.” Beaurain has touching stories about some of them, “I became friendly with this guy who came in every Saturday. He was a joyful person and we had great chats. Then he disappeared for six months and I wondered where he was. One day, I got a call from him, telling me he was at Saint-Jean / Sint-Jan clinic and really ill. He wanted to see me the next day and I went there. We never talked about his illness, but I think it was AIDS. Although it hurt to see him weak and diminished, I had to be there for him. He died a few days after my visit.” Ironically, Beaurain was approached by a fashion brand three years ago and has finally decided to sell his shop. He will close in December this year, starting a new chapter in his life. The stains may be long gone, but Beaurain’s indelible stain on the neighbourhood won’t be washed away any time soon. (Farewell Eddy. Brussels’ fashion strip won’t be the same without you.)