Granby dry cleaners get ready to hang it up after serving town for 32 years
Sky-Hi Daily News
Mike Childress sat in the sunny front of his store Monday reading a book.
It wasn’t a regular June day as those throughout his 16-plus years in the dry cleaning business.
Normally, Childress could be found at the counter speaking with clients, or seen via the peek-through window busily sorting, pressing and folding.
But on this day, business is reduced to fulfilling claims ” a dwindling inventory of plastic-wrapped shirts, skirts pinned to paper-covered wire hangers, hanging dresses and folded sweaters.
Collecting clothes as they come, bundled and wrinkled, dog hair-ridden on the counter as each is itemized, is no longer a function at his Town and Country Cleaners in Granby.
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Town and Country is scheduled to “close for good” June 30, and though customers have been called and forewarned, anything left un-retrieved will be donated to Goodwill, Childress said.
For 32 years, the Childress family has maintained this service in the area, but with the store’s closing, “Dry Clean Only” garments, drapes, rugs and bedding will be orphaned when it comes to cleaning.
Childress had been referring his customers to Summit County, Steamboat or Denver, since no other local, non-commercial dry cleaner exists.
“The way the economy is is the biggest factor for me shutting down,” he said.
Profits have dropped over the last three to four years at Town and Country, barely covering bills.
Government mandates for perchlorethane solvent machines, such as new monitoring equipment for the chemical deemed adverse to the environment, is just one reason the dry cleaner has chosen to hang up his hat.
“I didn’t want to put in the expense,” he explained.
Moreover, the cost of everything related to the business is increasing ” from solvents to hangers, utilities to property taxes ” at a time when the consumer base is decreasing, Childress said.
As consumers struggle to pay their own increased property taxes, as well as rising health, grocery and utility bills, dry cleaning is one of the first luxuries sacrificed.
On top of that, “up here, this county has gone to casual dress,” he said.
Even lawyers and bankers in the high country have traded fine suits for the informal.
“And churches are ‘come as you are.’ When I was a kid, you wore your Sunday best to church, which means you wore a suit. … Even for weddings and funerals people don’t dress up as much anymore,” he said.
Childress has declined to raise his prices to meet the growing demands of the business, even refusing to tack on a hazardous waste fee like those found at Denver shops. Solvents and disposal of old filters cost him around $4,000 per year, he said.
“I didn’t want to keep raising prices to offset those costs. I’ve run a good business at a fair price without taking advantage of people.”
It’s what he learned from his father Jim, who started in the dry cleaning business 61 years ago. Jim and his brother Sam opened a dry cleaners at the location of the current gun shop in Granby in 1947, then moved it to the Edward Jones building. After moving away to open four One-hour Martinizing stores in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jim and Donna Childress returned to Grand County in 1976 and reopened Town and Country Dry Cleaners in its present spot. For several years, they even provided delivery.
Son Mike bought Town and Country in 1992.
Two generations amount to a lot of pocket-checking.
“I’ve seen it all,” Jim said, such as “pornographic pictures found in happily-married men’s pockets.”
Or, there’s the occasional forgotten pot, cocaine and drug paraphernalia. “It’d shock ya’ ” you’d be surprised, some of the people who’s pockets we’d find it in,” Mike said.
An unwritten vow of confidentiality in the business, however, keeps the Childresses’ lips sealed.
Mostly, it was money they’d find.
“If it was change, we’d put it in the change jar, but anything more than $1 we always gave back to them,” Donna said.
Jim recited a story about a patron who took his clothes to the cleaners after having visited the track. The Childresses found four crisp $100 bills in his pocket and his wallet swirling in the solvent. When everything was dried and returned to Mr. Miller, he awarded the Childresses with homemade pie, “and boy did his wife make good pies,” Jim said.
The Childresses have witnessed other dry cleaners come and go, such as Heckert Cleaners in Grand Lake, Granby Laundry and Dry Cleaners owned by Lough and Ashbaugh and Preferred Cleaners in Fraser.
Regionally, “the small dry cleaners, the mom and pop operations, are being phased out by the bigger chains,” Mike said, “because bigger chains have more than one store, and if one isn’t doing so well, the other might make up for it.”
People generally have busy lives, and Mike has always understood that picking up dry cleaning might not always be at the top of the list.
Although technically shop policy was to house items for 30 days, “people get busy working more than one job or taking care of family and they forget about their dry cleaning. After about six months time, I’d call them,” he said.
Last year during an overhaul of inventory, Mike said he found clothes still waiting for their owners from 14 years ago. And many times, Mike has shipped clothes to customers who’ve already moved away, he said.
Town and Country customers, some who have been loyal for all 32 years, now are picking up plastic-sheathed clothes for the last time.
And those who have used the service are asking the Childresses, ‘Now what do we do?’ Mike said.
From ski patrol to state patrol ” “We appreciate all the customers that we’ve had in Grand County,” Jim said.
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail email@example.com.
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