Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 16, 2018

O’Grady Cleaners shutters its doors

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jul 23, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Judie and Dick Herzog closed their dry cleaning business, O’Grady Cleaners, Friday after having run it for 32 years. The business was founded by Bernard O’Grady after he returned from World War II. It was the last dry cleaner in Fairfield. Dick said the town supported four dry cleaners at one time.

The last dry cleaning business in Fairfield has shut its doors.

O’Grady Cleaners on North Court Street said goodbye to the Fairfield community Friday on its final day of operation. Dick and Judie Herzog owned the business for 32 years after purchasing it from Tim Michaels. The business was founded by Bernard O’Grady. From what Dick Herzog can recall, O’Grady returned from World War II and worked for J.C. Penney before starting the dry cleaning business.

Herzog did not have any experience in dry cleaning when he purchased the business, but as he explained, “When you’ve got a family, you have to support it.”

Michaels trained Herzog for a few weeks before turning over the shop to him. That gave Herzog time to learn how to remove spots from clothing and how to work all the machines such as the boiler that produces steam and the dry cleaning machine. Though dry cleaning was new to Herzog, interacting with the public was not. He had worked in retail for more than 15 years before starting at O’Grady’s.

The dry cleaning industry has steadily declined over the years. Herzog recalled that suits were a major part of his business when he started. As those dropped off, he relied more on dry cleaning shirts and sweaters. Herzog said fewer men wear suits to work, and the society seems to be comfortable with a more casual look in general.

Dry cleaners took a hit decades ago with the introduction of polyester, a synthetic fabric that could be washed at home. At one point in time, Fairfield supported four dry cleaners. When Herzog purchased O’Grady’s, there were two, his own and Teeter Cleaners on East Broadway Avenue.

“There are now only three dry cleaning plants in all of southeast Iowa,” Herzog said. “When I started, my supplier in Des Moines had to make 52 stops on his way here and it took him three days. Now he comes down and goes back in the same day.”

As demand slowed, Herzog cut his hours. He was once open from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., though recently was open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Dick and Judie tried to sell the business so it wouldn’t have to close. A few people were interested, but an agreement was never reached. Herzog said he has sold the building, but the new owner is not interested in continuing the dry cleaning business.

The Herzogs felt it was time to let go of the dry cleaner. Dick is 77 and Judie will be 77 next month. They hope to be able to spend more time with their three daughters and nine grandchildren. Their daughters have scattered but remain within a half-day’s drive of Fairfield: Alison Shafer having settled in Sergeant Bluff; Jennifer Carnahan in Quincy, Illinois; and Natalie Johnson in Olathe, Kansas.

“We’ll get to see them more often now that we won’t have to wait for the weekend,” Herzog said.

When asked if they had hobbies to keep them busy in retirement, Judie remarked that she tried to teach her husband to quilt, to no avail. Judie is a member of the Northside Strippers quilting club.

Herzog said he’s going to miss the interactions with the public the most.

Though the business closed Friday, several articles of clothing had not been picked up. Herzog stopped accepting new items for cleaning on June 22.

Those who still have items in the shop are asked to call the Herzogs at 472-6240.




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