"Styles changed and we saw it coming," Lenny Hogendorn said on June 27, just days after closing Toledo Cleaners - a business operated by his wife, Lois, and himself for nearly 32 years. Their dry cleaners located at 108 South Main was the last one of it's kind in Tama County.
For those needing dry cleaning, Wilkerson Hardware has added a pick up location at the store at 129 East High St. in Toledo for Niehouse Cleaners of Marshalltown.
"Men used to buy nice suits, wore them to church or meetings every week," Lenny said. "You would dry clean a nice coat - wear it eight to 10 years. Now, people buy a coat every two years."
Toledo Cleaners owner Lenny hogendorn stands beside drycleaning equipment in the shop on June 27. The long-time Toledo business closed due to changing clothing trends on June 21.
Chronicle photos/John Speer
As a result, "We knew this was coming for quite a while," Lenny said. "There's not enough business to sell (it) to someone to make a living."
Lenny mentions the business has enjoyed many good customers over the years. He said they even developed a following of Iowa State Troopers who brought their uniforms from as far away as Cedar Rapids and Williamsburg to be dry cleaned. (It was also noted some of the troopers shared Lenny's interest in the Iowa Hawkeyes and this may also have been a bit of a motivation.)
The long-time business people had already prepared for the closing. Lois went to work at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel five years ago. Now Lenny is beginning a new job as a custodian at South Tama High School.
He said the plant equipment still works well but is mostly obsolete and he expects he'll have to sell some of it for scrap metal price. There's a boiler, the dry cleaning machine itself, a "pants topper" and "legger," utility press and other commercial equipment.
The 2,400 sq. ft. building will be converted into duplex apartments. Originally built as United Food Market about 1960, it housed the Farm and City Store for a number of years. It was vacant for two years until the Hogendorns relocated from their South Broadway location 15 years ago.
The Hogendorns were married on Aug. 1, 1981, and bought Toledo Cleaners from R. Dale (Poody) and Mary Bratton on Sept. 1 of that year. (See Photo From the Past Page 5.)
Lois grew up in the dry cleaning business at Sigourney Cleaners, which was owned and operated by her parents, Galen and Bonnie Bower, now of Toledo.
Lenny's parents owned and operated The North English Record newspaper. Although he had no dry cleaning experience, Lois is quoted in a 1981 Toledo Chronicle article about their purchase, saying "He'll learn."
Lenny says a reflection on today's small business climate could be in the price Toledo Cleaners recently paid for cleaning fluid. When they began over 32 years ago, it was priced at just over one dollar a gallon. This year he paid $9.18 per gallon. And there was a $35 "invoice charge" attached to the order.
Some garments were still awaiting pick up at the cleaners last week. If you have items to claim call 641-751-8371.