• Slide 1

    National Clothesline


Obituary - Mark Watkins

Born in 1947 to Tommy and Betty Watkins, Mark Watkins hailed from the city of Birmingham, AL.

He went on to start Mark’s Quality Cleaners there in 1981 and serve as a long-time board member of the South Eastern Fabricare Association (SEFA) and the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute (DLI).

In late November, he passed away at the age of 74.

After earning a business degree from Jacksonville State University Mark sold ductile iron and plastic pipe for about a decade, but things changed in 1981 when he and his wife Gretchen decided to open Mark’s Quality Cleaners in Birmingham.

The early days were hard, but Mark retained his sense of humor. “I was working on old junk equipment until three o’clock in the morning with a guy who didn’t know how to work on them… who smoked Chesterfields… constantly,” he recalled in a National Clothesline interview from 2021. “I’ll never forget leaning over my paychecks in the heat of summer, trying to write them and hopefully they would clear when I handed them out.”

He quickly turned the business into a profitable and reputable cleaners by employing smart strategies, adding delivery routes and offering impeccable quality.

“In this industry, if you’re not nitpicky and persnickety about what you do, you won’t survive,” he said.

In 2019, at the age of 71, he spearheaded a much-need relocation of the company, a move that certainly helped it survive during the toughest days of the pandemic.

He was just happy to make the business stronger in the future for his son, Josh.

“Josh can continue to grow after I do the backstroke out of here, and he’ll have something that is worthwhile and will be good for him for the rest of his life,” he explained.

Mark also often acted as a life coach for his team members and deeply loved Alabama football and riding motorcycles. He was preceded in death by his parents, Tommy and Betty Watkins, and father-in-law Paul Wolff. He is survived by his wife, Gretchen, and their four children: Josh (Sophie), Rachel (Benjee), Sarah and Wes.