Niles’ Garden City Cleaners closing doors

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- A family-owned, full-service dry cleaner in Niles is going out of business.
Gary Grathwohl, son of Joe and Mary Lou Grathwohl and president of Garden City Cleaners on 1027 Wayne St. in Niles, said there are several reasons for closing the business, which, since its establishment in the late '20s has had three different owners.
Grathwohl said Mary and Phil Wygent opened the store and they later sold it to Al and Sara Kinnaman.
Twenty-one years ago, Joe and Mary Lou Grathwohl, Gary's parents, bought the business; a business Grathwohl has worked in ever since.
But Grathwohl, who is a graduate of the International Fabricare Institute in Silver Springs, a suburb of Washington D.C., Md., said closing the business wasn't a decision made at the a spur of the moment.
Over the last 20 years, Grathwohl has watched the dry cleaning industry rise with the economy and fall with the casual dress trends.
He has monitored the industry even more closely over the last five years.
One of Grathwohl's main reasons for closing is a result of more people wearing casual dress to work instead of business suits, a trend that has grown rapidly over the last eight years, he said.
He uses a catch phrase to illustrate how big of an influence casual dress has had on his business.
Grathwohl said that trend has left dry cleaners with fewer items to clean, making it even harder for them to make money and survive in a time when many people are already struggling with a bad economy.
In addition, most dry cleaners are struggling to meet Environmental Protection Agency requirements, which include modernizing some of the dry cleaning machinery, he said.
He said those requirements have meant financial difficulties for many dry cleaners because of the expenses involved with buying new machines.
But Grathwohl said he has other reasons for deciding to close, too.
To continue the dry cleaning business, he would sooner or later have had to invest $20,000 in a new boiler.
He said having already successfully battled cancer twice at the age of 43, has also influenced his decision to close.
And, although deciding to close has been one of the hardest decisions Grathwohl has ever had to make in his life, he is positive about the future.
Grathwohl doesn't have any concrete plans what he will do in the future.
In the meantime, while he's looking for something else to do, he expects it will take some time to clean out the business.
"I'm open for suggestions, but summer is coming up and I have equipment to get rid of," he said.
Grathwohl said he will have regular business hours out this week, but from next week onwards, he will only be at the store at random times.
He doesn't take in clothes for cleaning anymore and encourages those who haven't picked up their clothes to do that as soon as possible.

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