Founded in 1900 by brothers John Selby and Frank H. Kean, Kean’s Fine Dry Cleaning's initial business was laundering collars for LSU students in a small building on Government Street. Today, Kean’s has grown into an enterprising dry cleaning business with 7 locations, over 120 employees and a new family at the helm.
In the beginning, Kean’s Fine Dry Cleaning was known as Southern Steam Laundry. Southern Steam would pick up and deliver laundered clothes via horse-drawn wagons.
In 1906, the brothers changed the name to Kean Bros. and moved the company to Third Street, which was a very busy corridor at that time. In 1924, fire destroyed the plant on Third Street forcing a move to Convention Street.
By 1935, dry cleaning was added as a new service and the horse drawn wagons were replaced with electric trucks. Additional family members were brought in to help Kean’s grow and diversify. Frank’s son, Wilbur and nephew, Preston Gordon, began a linen supply business under the Kean’s partnership called Red Stick.
By the 1940s, John S. Kean, Jr. had standardized Red Stick’s prices making the company more competitive in the market. Throughout the 1950s Kean’s continued to see growth. The electric trucks were replaced with gasoline-driven vehicles and another diversification of the company occurred. Red Stick Uniform Rental Service was formed with the help from Robert McVea, Valarie Barouse, Shirley LeBlanc and Randy Steward.
In the 1960s, another generation of Kean joined the company. Frank Kean III, John Kean III and W. Amiss Kean worked hard to continue the company’s growth and Kean’s tradition. By the 1970s, Kean’s became a dominant regional player in both retail and commercial cleaning services, covering an area from Lake Charles to New Orleans to Shreveport.
In 1986, the commercial cleaning side of Kean’s was sold to CINTAS. Frank III kept the then twenty-eight retail stores, which is today’s Kean’s The Cleaner still headquartered in Baton Rouge.
In April 2003, Frank III was ready to retire from the business begun by his grandfather. Having no fourth generation family member ready and eager to take over the company, he recruited Gerard G. “Rock” Rockenbaugh, Jr., to purchase an interest in the company with the hopes of Rock one day managing it. Rock became the managing partner, working side-by-side with Kean, for approximately two years, learning the ins-and-outs of the family business. Through the learning partnership, Kean realized, with Rock’s enthusiasm and commitment he had found the right man and family to take over the Kean’s tradition.
Three years after his initial investment in Kean’s, Rock knew he was ready to become the new owner when Frank Kean III was ready to retire. Just as Kean’s, under the Kean Bros. ownership, had always been a family affair, Rock is continuing this tradition. He and his wife, Missy and their two sons, Stephen and Gregory, have worked in every Kean’s location to learn the business and get to know the customers.