By Cliff Radel, The Cincinnati Equirer
CHEVIOT − The torch has been passed from one West Side institution to another. Seventy−year−old Kroner Dry Cleaners has purchased the customer list and inventory of the 46−year−old Cheviot branch of Sunshine Cleaners.
Located practically around the corner from each other, both cleaners are fourth−generation family firms. The stores’ owners worked on the deal for a month. They agreed that the Sunshine location would lock its doors for the last time at the close of business Saturday.
“We’re buying the business,” said Ray Kroner, operator of Greater Cincinnati’s oldest single−shop dry cleaner still run by its founding family, “but not the building.”
“We’re going to try to find a tenant for our vintage building. We’ll still operate across the great divide, the Ohio River, at our Northern Kentucky stores in Cold Spring and Southgate and our plant in Silver Grove,” said Joe Schwegmann III. His grandfather moved Sunshine from Northside to Cheviot in 1963.
The Sunshine Cleaners building occupies a plot rich in West Side history. A century ago, Glashien’s Hotel stood on the site until the two−story landmark was razed in 1923. The current art−deco−themed structure was built in 1930 for a DeSoto−Plymouth−Studebaker car dealership. During World War II, the building housed Tedford’s Crystal Labs, where young servicemen’s brides were paid $28 a week to polish crystals for bomb sights and regularly pass out from the fumes of the highly toxic polishing agent, carbon tetrachloride.
“This building has a long history and so have we in Cheviot,” Schwegmann said.
“But the area has changed. We’re only using about one−third of the building, and our business in Cheviot over the last six years has declined 20 percent. With those numbers, we started talking with Ray Kroner.”
Their conversation led to Saturday’s closing. That resulted in layoffs for three of Sunshine’s six fulltime employees.
Both dry cleaners declined to reveal the price of their agreement. They did note that the deal included handing over Sunshine’s list of 3,000 customers. “If I retain 100 percent of their business,” Kroner said. “it’ll give me a 20 percent jump.”