karim_visram_web.jpgFlorida International University

For more than 50 years, Crandon Laundry and Dry Cleaning has been a fixture in Liberty City, managing to survive hard times and even a couple of robberies.

Customers entering the light blue, slightly run-down building at 5222 NW Seventh Ave. at 52nd Street are immediately greeted by owner Karim Visram, a smiling, middle-aged African with smooth, fine hair and cinnamon-sprinkled skin. Visram, 49, was born in Tanzania and moved to Canada as a youth. He worked there as a mechanic before moving to Miami, where he met Crandon’s former owner, Ugandan native Sandru Tajani.

Visram bought the establishment in 1983 and, almost 30 years later, despite the surging cost of supplies and two robberies in two years, he doesn’t plan to relocate any time soon.

“I’m used to the customers,” he said. “I know them and they know me.”

Crandon’s is a full-service dry cleaner, one of only a handful in the area, taking good care of residents’ shirts ($2-$3.75); dresses ($10-$12); pants ($4.50-$6.50); jackets ($6.50); and suits ($10.50-$15.)

Clifton Harrison has been coming to Crandon for more than two decades.

“I love the people here,” said the 59-year-old retired AT&T repair technician, “I love the business atmosphere. The prices are reasonable and they are [a] good cleaners. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t come here.”

Visram discusses armed robberies as if they are just part of doing business.

"One day in 2006, two men with machine guns came in here," he recalled. “They asked for the money and then hit me in the head with the gun. That's when I gave up the cash."

Long-time employee Leroy Hunter was there on the day of the robbery, but says he loves his job and would never leave.

“I’ve been working here for 20 years,” said the Georgia native, “and I am not afraid. Plus, Karim is a good man. He used to own a boat, and we’d go fishing together.”

These days, Visram struggles to keep the business alive in the recession. Naturally, the cost of doing business has increased, and so have the prices. But he still sees between 50 and 200 customers a day.

"We used to make a lot of money, but not anymore,” he said. “There are too many regulations, and the cost of supplies and chemicals has really gone up.”

As far as Visram knows, he is the only business owner on his strip of Seventh Avenue who is originally from the motherland. Even though few of his customers look like him, he says he relates to every one of them.

And, he sees no reason to move to the suburbs.

“Right now I am content,” he said, “because crime can happen no matter where you are.”


Photo courtesy of Liberty City Link. Karim Visram, owner of Crandon Laundry and Dry Cleaning in Liberty City.