THEY have been helping get rid of stubborn stains and making prized dresses and suits good as new for years.

Now an Andover family-run dry cleaners is celebrating four decades in business.

Oakley Cleaners, now Crisp and Clean @ Oakley Cleaners in Weyhill Road, opened its doors in 1979, formed by Mike Walton and wife Jan.

“My husband was a laundry manager and we decided we wanted to have a go on our own so we looked for a dry cleaners, but couldn’t find one so we sold our house in Newcastle and moved down and eventually turned a launderette into a dry cleaners,” Jan said.

And over the years the couple and their team of employees have washed and cleaned all sorts of items, some that have stuck in their memory.

“A gentleman bought his Tweed jacket in for cleaning and I checked the pockets and as I put my hand in there I could feel something — it was a glass eye,” Jan added.

“We have cleaned a very old wedding dress for somebody who was celebrating their 60 years of marriage and wanted to wear it to celebrating.

“It is amazing the number of old christening gowns that we have cleaned which have been passed down.”

It was not just Mike and Jan who got involved with the shop as their children leant a helping hand with the business from a young age.

Jan said: “When we first opened it was just the two of us and the children were small. Ben [the couple’s son], when he was about five-years-old, he got the job of folding towels in the launderette — he was my Saturday boy and our daughter Vicky was the Saturday girl.”

And Ben enjoyed being in the shop so much that he has now opened his own outlet, Ben’s Quality Dry Cleaners, in Union Street, Andover, with dad Mike often popping in to help out.

The family also now employ four members of staff.

With changes in technology and fabrics, the family has also seen a difference in how the business operates over the decades.

“We are now computerised, when we first went in there there was a lock box under the counter and a dry cleaning book.

“We now have computerised till and credit cards, and we now do pick-ups and deliveries — you just have to move with the times.”

And as they were celebrating four decades in business, the dry cleaners were surprised when customers Roger and Erika came into the shop with a cake to mark the occasion.

Jan added: “It was such a nice thing to do, it was lovely.”