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Family business in
operation for 70 years

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, David's Cleaners and Laundry in College Park is busy pumping out 310-degree steam, producing about 1,000 pounds of clean, pressed laundry per week.

Since the 1960s, Jim Bazemore, III, a third-generation dry cleaner, has relied on the same equipment - and many of the same people - to get the job done.

David's Cleaners, started by his father the year Bazemore was born, is 70 years old. Once boasting a service area that included six stores throughout College Park and Clayton County, David's Cleaners now has two stores - its main facility in College Park, and its satellite location on the corner of Jonesboro Road and Ga. Highway 138 in Jonesboro.

Standing proudly, and staring at a 1967 Milnor brand, front-loading washing machine recently, Bazemore declared: "It's the best washer machine ever made in my opinion."

"It was built to last," he said. "They have the new ones with all the fancy buttons, but those break down way more than ours do."

The longevity of David's Cleaner is part of its draw, said Sharon Morris, who works at the Jonesboro store and has worked for the company for almost 10 years.

"A lot of people stop in here because we have been a business for so long," Morris said. "For new people looking for a cleaners, it makes them feel better ... I have people coming from Peachtree City and Lovejoy. A lot of people may move out, but if they come back, they come back to us."

Bazemore said the business thrived during a time when few people had washers and dryers of their own.

"Back in the late '30s and '40s, most people didn't have washer machines," he said. "My dad started the business and went around the neighborhood and picked up people's laundry. A lot of people would want to wash their clothes and then hang them on the line, so we would bring them back damp. That's how we got started."

In the 1940s, David's Cleaners was one of the few dry cleaning businesses with its own laundromat, according to Bazemore. The business had a wide service area, picking up laundry from customers from Fayetteville to Marietta, he said.

Operating its washers and dryers five days a week, he said the business cleaned and pressed sheets for many of the hotels once dotting Stewart Avenue (now Metropolitan Parkway), and dry cleaned more than 2,000 pounds of clothes, weekly.

While the business still takes in customers' clothes six days a week, it now only washes clothes three days a week.

The facility in College Park, a historic landmark at 3775 Main St., was started in 1939 by Bazemore's father, James Bazemore, Jr. For a brief time during World War II, the business was operated by James Bazemore, Sr.

The 70-year-old Bazemore is president of David's Cleaners, and the third generation of Bazemores to bear the middle name "David."

According to him, the business is the oldest, continuously-operating family business in College Park.

In the front of a store is a framed, 1921 newspaper article describing how his grandfather, a Fulton County sheriff's deputy, apprehended a notorious bank robber in a gun battle.

The bank, or what used to be the bank, is now part of David's Cleaners in College Park and where the store does most of its laundry. The store's receiving area once used to be a grocery store on Main Street.

Beneath dated pictures of well-known area residents, an engraved plaque from the U.S. Department of the Interior designates the building as a site on the National Register of Historic Places.

Todd Price, 46, is Bazemore's son and the company's vice president. He said he is proud the business has remained family owned for 70 years.

"You read books on how hard it is to work with family, but it has not been that way for us," said Price, one of seven siblings, and half siblings, who have worked for the business at one point or another. "It has been very enjoyable. A lot of businesses have come and gone and haven't stayed around like the cleaner's has. A lot of different generations are still trading with us ... mothers, daughters, sons. It's quite a feat nowadays."

Bazemore said the business does all of its pressing on the same pneumatic "double sleevers" for sleeves, "triple heads" for cuffs and collars, "mushrooms" for pant tops, and "leggers" for pant legs that the store has used since the 1950s. Some of the employees, he said, have been there as long as the equipment.

"I have a lady who has been here since 1952," he said. "She can do everything. A good many of our people are getting up in age, but they produce a good product. They know how to do it."