Louis Shields is bringing his spell as owner of Euroclean in James Street, Stornoway to an end.

“I’d like to thank the many thousands of customers we’ve had over the years for their custom and their loyalty and also to the staff that I’ve had who have been magnificent,” said Louis, reflecting on the last 30 years,

Louis’ background was originally in engineering, working off- shore as an electrical inspector in countries including Malaysia, Singapore and Bahrain.

Having travelled extensively Louis wished to return home and settle with his family, “I wanted to come home but there wasn’t anything available that interested me, it was then I decided I would start my own business.”

He visited the business department at the Lews Castle College, looking for advice on businesses that would succeed in Stornoway. He was presented with three viable options, “Marks and Spencer’s, a jewellers and a dry cleaner” Louis continued, “I had seen a notice for a dry cleaning franchise, Euroclean and upon enquiring I was able to negotiate a deal.  Given my location it was agreed that I would not become a franchisee but an independent business under the same name.”

This initial discussion took place in January 1988.  However, it was not until April of the same year that trading could commence. Louis said, “While I was waiting for the business to get off the ground I spent four months working off shore on the Piper Alpha.” The Piper Alpha was an oil platform operated by Occidental Petroleum. “I was working on the Piper Alpha 6 weeks before it blew up in the North Sea” On 6 July 1988 a gas leak caused an explosion which destroyed the platform resulting in the deaths of 167 people. Only 61 workers escaped and survived. The Piper Alpha remains the worst offshore oil disaster in terms of lives lost. Speaking on the incident Louis said, “I guess it was a quirk of fate that brought me home.” Adding that he, “knew some of the men who were lost.”

In the early days of Euroclean, Louis had a steep learning curve as he got to grips with the line of business which he had entered. “I had never worked in dry cleaning but got some training from the company before starting. I was a bit nervous to start with as you would be, but that’s the way you learn.”

Louis certainly learnt from these early experiences as over the last 30 years Euroclean has become vital to the everyday lives of so many.  Operating as the only dry cleaners on the island, providing an extensive kilt hire service and clothing repairs, Louis has played a part in countless job interviews, hundreds of weddings and helped solve numerous clothing disasters.

 “I’ve had hundreds of thousands of happy customers and hopefully not too many disappointed ones.”

Asked about his plans for retired life Louis said that he was going to travel extensively.  Along with his wife Marion he will visit a number of places including Vietnam, Cambodia and Australia all before the end of the year. They will then spend Christmas and New Year in Singapore.

More important than all of these locations however will be the fulfilment of a 37-year-old promise.  When Louis first met his wife, Marion, he made her a far-fetched promise that will next winter finally be fulfilled, “Stick with me and I’ll take you to Tahiti.”

From the paradise of the south pacific to the paradise of the East End of Glasgow, Louis will also as often as possible travel to Parkhead to see his “beloved Celtic.”

 Louis will now look to find an interested party to take over from him at Euroclean.  “There’s definitely an opening for someone, it would be great to see someone new come in, with new ideas, to cast a fresh eye over the place.

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“I would hate to see the place shut down so hopefully someone will come in and continue to run Euroclean as a dry cleaners.”