Clatsop County could soon be without a dry cleaner.
Astoria Cleaners faces an uncertain future with sales plummeting from a lack of formal events and their landlord looking to sell the building.
Karen Shinabery and her partner, Rob Tikkala, bought Astoria Cleaners from Delores Smith in 2001.
The business, located on Ninth Street in Astoria, soon outgrew its small space and moved into a stand-alone building on Marine Drive next to Dairy Queen, where they offer dry cleaning and a coin laundry.
While there are several other laundromats, the nearest dry cleaners are in Tillamook, Hillsboro and Longview, Washington.
Astoria Cleaners would typically be awash in wedding gowns and tuxedos for summer nuptials; uniforms from the crews of river cruise ships stopping at the 17th Street Dock; and all other manner of professional attire. But the coronavirus pandemic has brought much of public life to a standstill and decimated dry cleaning businesses around the U.S.
“We’ve been hurting since 2008, but not as bad as it is now,” Shinabery said. “This is like the icing on the cake.”
Spot Business Systems, a cloud software provider for dry cleaners, noted that its customers around the U.S. saw retail sales drop by 80% in mid-April compared to a year ago. The industry has since clawed back to about half its usual sales.
“People aren’t wearing clothes that you have to dry clean or press,” Shinabery said. “... So many of my customers are working out of their homes, I guess.”
Shinabery, 72, has been dry cleaning since she was 17. She said she would try to hold on but isn’t certain how long she’ll have at the current location. About six weeks ago, she got a phone call that a Realtor would be coming to check out the building, which has been listed for more than seven months online.
“The only reason I knew the building was for sale was a customer showed me on Craigslist,” she said.
The building is owned by David Bodway, the city finance director for Sherwood. Bodway could not be reached for comment, but Lovekesh Kumar, the owner of several Super Mart convenience stores throughout the region, confirmed they have been in negotiations on the Marine Drive location.
Shinabery hasn’t started informing her customers, expecting to eventually be evicted but not knowing when. She wants to retire but has been trying to entice someone to take on a scaled-back business of running a local laundry service and shuttling dry cleaning orders to and from Longview.
“I feel terrible,” she said about the imminent closure. “If there was another dry cleaners here, I would not feel bad about closing.”