A family with three generations of small business owners continues their local legacy.
- Written byAmber Klinck
Photographed by Lauren Pressey
For Najla Barile, owner and director of Harmony Yoga, becoming a third-generation Redondo Beach business owner wasn’t exactly part of her master plan.
“I never put it together. I never consciously thought I wanted to go into business for myself,” she says. But when an opportunity came along to pair her passion for yoga with her family’s long-standing history as small business owners in the South Bay, everything clicked.
It all began in 1905, the year her grandfather William Coury opened French Method Cleaning, the South Bay’s first dry cleaners. An immigrant from Lebanon, William came through Ellis Island as William Khouri before the spelling of his name was changed to the more Americanized Coury.
“It was so interesting,” says Najla. “I was able to see his name written there.”
After Ellis Island, a 20-something William made his way to Texas, where he joined the Navy. “When he first came , he really wanted to show his patriotism,” Najla notes.
After being diagnosed with asthma, however, William opted for a drier climate and moved from Texas to Redondo Beach.
A jeweler by trade in Lebanon, the dry cleaning process was new to him—and a little dangerous to perfect. “At the time, they used gasoline to clean the clothes,” Najla explains.
Soon, however, William was delivering all over Los Angeles (in a horse and buggy) and gaining a reputation for excellent service that eventually led to two cleaners in Manhattan Beach, one in Hermosa Beach, two in Redondo Beach and one in El Segundo. With the growth of his businesses, William changed the name of the cleaners from French Method Cleaning to Coury and Son Cleaners.
In 1956 Najla’s father, Raymond William Coury, joined the family business along with his three brothers. At this point there were two cleaners in Redondo Beach and one in Hermosa. The brothers, having grown up in the community, were known around town as “the Coury brothers,” Najla says.
The cleaners served as a social hub. “People would come and bring donuts and coffee and just want to hang out with my dad and his brothers,” Najla explains.
Through her father and her uncles, Najla got a firsthand look at what it meant to own a small business. “My dad would give me little jobs: sweeping the floors or dusting,” she notes. “I would always see people coming in and hanging out. My dad really liked the social part of the dry cleaning business.”
But it was more than just the day-to-work that left an impression on Najla. “When you’re in business for yourself, you’re always working,” she explains. “I noticed that with my dad at a young age; he would work long hours, but my parents were happy.”
In 1990 the Coury brothers were ready to sell. But even under new ownership, the Redondo Beach location on Beryl Street is still named Coury & Son’s Dry Cleaners. With the family business behind him, Raymond ventured out on his own and opened Rayson Window Coverings, which he operated until 2010.
For Najla, seeing the way her family has done business over the years has greatly influenced her own professional practices. “I really believe in honesty, a good work ethic and fairness,” she says. “I learned that from my family. It is an honor to be able to serve the Redondo Beach community, just as my family has done for the past 100 years, by being generous and hospitable. If you get to do what you love, that’s even better.”