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It's Classic Cleaners again
Janice Gray returns to the dry cleaning business
Classic Cleaners Web
Janice Gray, left, owner of Classic Cleaners, which she operated years ago and has recently re-established, demonstrates service with a smile and gets one in return from customer Glenda Rogers. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

               Out of the business for the past eight years but with more than 20 years of experience in dry cleaning, Janice C. Gray relaunched Classic Cleaners on Northside Drive East near Walgreens in March.
        "It's been really interesting. I've had some of my old customers come back," she said. "This one gentleman came around one morning and I stepped out the door and he asked, ‘Are you back here?' I said ‘I am,' and he said, ‘I am so glad to see you. I know my clothes are going to be taken care of now.'"
        Gray first got into dry cleaning, also under the name Classic Cleaners, in 1991 with a shop in the Gentilly Square shopping center, then home to Winn-Dixie. When Gray learned that the site on Northside Drive was for sale, she purchased it and had the building purpose-built for dry cleaning. After some setbacks with getting the building ready, she moved Classic Cleaners into it in 1995.
        She grew her dry cleaning customer base under that name and in this same location for 14 years before selling the business, but not the building, in 2009. The first buyers, from Savannah, kept the Classic Cleaners name but were more interested in having a door-to-door cleaning business and moved out of Gray's building after one year, she said.
        They took the equipment with them. As Gray explains, when a dry cleaning business is sold, what is valued in the sale is mostly the equipment and the "book of business" or customer base.
        Other business owners then leased Gray's building, invested in new equipment and operated there under the name The Greener Cleaners for seven years. But that company moved out at the end of 2016, leaving in place the equipment, which Gray bought from the bank that had financed it.

Back to ‘Classic'
        "I bought the equipment and came back in, and I'm trying to get the business built back up, because Statesboro needs more than one dry cleaners," Gray said last week.
        She is working there full-time and has two employees. The shop is open for dropping off and picking up items from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10-12 a.m. Saturday.
        But at this point, Classic Cleaners is doing the actual cleaning work only two days a week, until more orders warrant operating the equipment more days.
        "We're right now just running on Wednesday and Friday, because it costs a lot of money to run this equipment, and I tell my customers, if you come in on Monday we run Wednesday and Friday, and nobody's had a problem with it so far," Gray said.

A ‘green' process
        The reborn Classic Cleaners has adopted the trademarked Green Earth Cleaning process. This uses a silicone solution instead of the traditional perchloroethylene solvent and is environmentally friendly, Gray said.
        "There's nothing hazardous about it. You can pour it outside, which I don't," she said.
        Instead, she has called on the same disposal company that she once paid to remove waste from perchloroethylene cleaning to remove the used silicone-based material.
        To freshen up the shop's look, Gray had an artist from Glennville repaint the walls around the front counter with a lake, mountain and forest scene, and the Green Earth Cleaning logo appears above the mountains in the mural.
        "We dry clean most anything, and we have a lady here who does alterations," Gray said.
        "Most anything," includes delicate items such as wedding and prom dresses. Classic Cleaners doesn't itself clean furs, leather or suede, but Gray has a place to send them for cleaning if customers need this service, she said.
        The shop also launders shirts that do not require dry cleaning.
        Anna Kim, who does the alterations, actually operates a separate business from Classic Cleaners, but in a room inside Gray's building, with a door to the lobby.

Gray's other business
        So Gray is back in the cleaning business, and now owns two businesses in Statesboro.
        The other is Customer 1st Lube Center, behind IHOP at the intersection of U.S. Highway 80 East and Veterans Memorial Parkway. It has been open under her ownership since Aug. 15, 2013, and so is approaching a fourth anniversary.
        "We're not just a quick-lube," Gray said. "We do tires and brakes and have a real good business."
        Twice in Gray's recent career, health problems have led to changes, but she has tended to become more active, not less so. First, about six years ago, she hit her head when she climbed aboard a trolley at a Bible conference. The impact with an overhead bar caused a concussion and whiplash.
        Gray knew that the injury had slowed her thinking. When she found that the auto lube center where she took her own car had closed, she wanted to buy and run the place as a way to stay mentally active, she said.
        "I was seeing a doctor at the Mayo Clinic and one in Savannah, and they both told me that was the best thing I could have ever done for myself," Gray said.
        More recently, severe arthritis led to double knee-replacement surgery in September 2015. So Gray found going up and down the stairs to her office at the lube center difficult. But the dry cleaning shop is all on ground level.
        Besides, Andrew Irwin worked at the lube center before Gray bought it, and she kept him on as the Customer 1st Lube Center manager.
      "He runs it for me, and he does a great job. I don't have to worry about anything," Gray said.
        Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

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