Good-bye Midtown’s mayor — Larry Collins of Sig Samuels fame

By Maria Saporta

The Mayor of Midtown has left us.

Larry Steven Collins was the man who knew everybody’s name when they walked in the door at the Sig Samuels drycleaner at the corner of Monroe Drive and Eighth Street.

Collins, 54, passed away on Wednesday, March 16 after two years of fighting ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

It’s hard to describe what a vital community role Sig Samuels and the Collins family have played in Midtown. It has been the unofficial gathering spot and meeting ground for people picking up or dropping off their laundry.

The windows of the historic looking storefront often are plastered with all kinds of community notices and election posters. And then there’s the role that all the Collins brothers and family members have played in sharing tidbits of information of what’s happening in our town.

Photos by Matthew Cardinale of APN

So at Friday night’s visitation at the H.M Patterson’s funeral home, it was not surprising to see people from all walks of life, such as U.S. Rep. John Lewis and hundreds of other faithful friends and customers, come to pay their respects to the family.

The stories of Sig Samuels and Larry Collins are legendary.

My former colleague at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dick Williams, once told me a wonderful story about Sigs. He had been a regular customer for years when he lived in town. But that changed after he had moved out to Dunwoody.

Dick told me that one day, after an eight or 10-year absence, he was in the neighborhood and decided to drop off his laundry at Sigs. He walked in and was greeted with a “Hello Dick” as though he had just been there a week before.

Photos by Matthew Cardinale of APN

The warm, cheerful and the personal greetings — even given to irregular customers — were as amazing as they were genuine.

Walking home tonight (Saturday evening) from the movie theater, I noticed Matthew Cardinale of the Atlanta Progressive News place some flowers by the door. Please read his wonderful piece about Larry Collins that he just posted on APN’s website.

But Matthew left out of his obituary a wonderful personal story about Larry. Matthew doesn’t drive a car, and sometimes when he would go pick up his dry-cleaning, he would have a taxi come by and take him and his laundry home.

One day, the taxi did not come. So Larry then drove Matthew home himself. After that, every time Matthew needed a ride, Larry was there to give him “door-to-door” service. It doesn’t get any better than that.

At the funeral home, another former colleague — Walter Woods — was there telling me his own tales of how Larry and the family had special ways to reach out to customers, especially when they might be going through their own difficult moments in life.

“Larry was the mayor of Midtown,” Walter said.

Photos by Matthew Cardinale of APN

Today is a difficult time for the Collins family, and it’s a time for us to reach out to them. They are lucky and we are lucky that it is such a close-knit family — from his mother, Mary Collins; his wife, Sheila Collins; his sons — Steve and Adam Collins; his three brothers — Tom, Mike and Jim Collins; as well as his sisters-in-law, his nieces and nephews and other members of his extended family.

And you will find most of the family members, day-in and day-out, behind the counter at Sig Samuels (known as “Sigs” to those of us in the hood) greeting you by name, giving you the ultimate customer service you’ll every find in Atlanta or anywhere.

In many ways, Sigs is Midtown’s City Hall; only now it’s minus our mayor.

Good-bye Larry (July 17, 1956 – March 16, 2011).

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Emory ALS Center.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

7 replies
  1. Laurenj says:

    Thanks for summing up a community’s emotions and paying a very deserved tribute to a man that many of us cared about…because he cared about all of us.Report

  2. Ron Strauss says:

    Larry Collins was one-of-a-kind, a warm, caring, genuine person that you immediately liked. He demonstrated each day in the way he lived his life and served his customers what building great brands and lives is all about. Larry’s personal brand reflected his character, humor and common sense. His company’s brand (Sig Samuels or ‘Sigs’) reflects hisand his family’s values. About 5 years ago I asked Larry what made him and his family business so extraordinary. In my talks around the country about what makes great brands I often cite Larry’s wisdom and Sig Samuels business practices as an example of great brand building. Larry’s talent in creating relationships was impressive. My wife and I moved from Midtown to East Lake in 2007; we continue to do business at Sig Samuels despite driving past many other cleaners on the way. My condolences to the Collins family and Larry’s Midtown neighborhood on a great lossReport

  3. Ernie Watts says:

    I will miss Larry. I just found out today. As Dick Williams said, Larry did me the same way. After a 15 year absence,Larry called by name and remembered by way I like my shirts. He was amazing! Larry, you will be missed. My regards the the entire family.

    Ernie Watts
    Turner BroadcastingReport

  4. Flora Tommie says:

    Just wanted to express my sympathy on the family’s loss of Mr. Larry Collins. Sig Samuels played a vital role in people’s lives…that corner had Mr. Collins & Kevin over at the restaurant. They helped teach a lot of us how businesses can operate when they so choose. It’s a great family legacy. My girlfriend, Deborah Jackson, and I loved the funny things that you would see and hear at Sig Samuels. Enjoy the spirit of his life.Report


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