Successful dry cleaning operator dies

Joe McKenna remembered for treating staff, customers with great respect

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 24, 2014
Joe McKenna
Guardian file photo

Joe McKenna, who built a successful dry cleaning and laundry business on old-fashioned hard work, has died.

McKenna passed away last Tuesday at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He was 91.

He was inducted into the Junior Achievement Prince Edward Island Business Hall of Fame in 2007.

He told The Guardian at the time that his entrepreneurial success was due to a discipline for working long, hard hours his entire business life.

Working his way through St. Dunstan’s University where he received his bachelor of science degree in 1947, McKenna regularly turned up at Sterns Laundry in Charlottetown at 7 a.m. for his summer job as a truck driver doing run after run for 14 straight hours. He worked in every department of the laundry. He knew the business inside and out when, at age 40, he purchased the operation.

He went on to own and operate a total of six dry cleaning and/or laundry operations.

He never viewed his position at the top as a means to lighten his own workload. He would arrive each day before the first employee showed up and he never left until after his last worker had gone home.

“The biggest thing about dad was he had a couple of nice personality traits,’’ Terry, who now runs the dry cleaning and laundry business, told The Guardian Monday.

“He was very respectful of his staff and his customers. I never heard him say one negative thing about anybody.’’

Joe McKenna and his late wife Mona (nee Moran, who died in 2005) had eight children. He spoke in 2007 with great fondness and reverence on his marriage of 53 years and his long, successful career.

“I enjoyed my work, that’s the big thing,’’ he said at the time. “And when you have a nice wife, you can’t ask for more. I had a great wife.’’

McKenna has passed along his strong entrepreneurial spirit to some of his children.

In addition to Terry running the dry cleaning and laundry business, Joe’s son, David, owns and operates the McDonald’s restaurants in P.E.I., a son, Paul, owns Capital Honda, his daughter, Mary, runs a McDonalds in Newfoundland with her husband and his son, Mark, owns and operates Granville Street Diner in Summerside. He is survived by six children and predeceased by two. 

McKenna’s funeral was held last Friday.