Dry cleaner closes in Arbutus

Cheryl League, 51, is shown at the counter of Leeds Dry Cleaners in Arbutus on Feb. 28. The family-run business will close its doors this week after being open in the same location for nearly a century. (Staff photo by Lauren Loricchio / March 5, 2014)

As the sign on Leeds Avenue indicates, Leeds Dry Cleaners, a longtime Arbutus business, will be shuttered by next week.

"When I saw that sign out front, I thought, 'That can't be true,' " said Barbara Roberts, who said she has been bringing her clothes to the store for alterations and dry cleaning for seven years.

On Friday afternoon, Roberts brought in some items, including one that needed a little extra attention.

Cheryl League, owner of Leeds Dry Cleaners, had to help Roberts, a retired Arbutus Middle School teacher who lives nearby, with a broken zipper.

"It's sad that a place like this is leaving the area. It's been here ever since I've been in the neighborhood," Roberts said.

League, 51, said the business has been run by her family for 47 years. But high overhead costs and dwindling revenues have combined to force the shop to close.

"It takes a lot to run a dry cleaning business," League said on Feb. 28.

League said dry cleaning chemical costs, labor costs — combined with taxes and basic store supplies such as tickets, tags and hangers — have gotten increasingly expensive.

"Dry cleaning isn't what it used to be. People don't wear as many dress clothes as they used to," League said.

The business was given to her father in 1973 by John and Mildred Reuwer, who had run the business for nearly 50 years. The Reuwers turned the business over to the League family, and all they had to do was pay the lease on the building, League said.

League has been running the business for 12 years after her parents were in charge for the previous 35.

League will be laundering the last shirts, plants and sweaters this week by herself. She has already had to say goodbye to her six employees, some of whom had worked at the store for nearly 30 years.

Pat Brandt, 74, of Linthicum, had worked at Leed's for 28 years before she found out they were closing.

"I'm going to miss it. I really am," Brandt said. "They were pretty decent as far as employers go."

But Brandt said finding out they were closing wasn't unexpected news.

"I'd seen it coming with the customer drop off," Brandt said.

Anthony Palaigos, of Catonsville, had been using Leeds for dry cleaning and alterations for over a decade.

"It's a sad day because that place has been there for a very long time. I always got great service there, and they were very honest people," Palaigos said.

Tish Reuwer, daughter of John and Mildred, owns the building and is worried about finding new tenants to fill the soon-to-be open space.

"I'm very sad that they are leaving. I'm looking to find somebody to take over the lease immediately," Reuwer said.

But she's not surprised that the business will be closing.

"Business has been going downhill for all dry cleaners since we've had wash and wear. People are more casual than they used to be," Reuwer said.

While she's leaving the business that has been at 5205 Leeds Ave. for nearly a century, League will be opening a new alterations and repairs shop on the other side of Leeds Avenue at 4101 West Drive, she said.

She's hoping to open the new business, which she will co-own her sister, Karen Mowry, by April 1.

They will be the only two employees at the shop until the business gets off the ground, League said.

"I've been sowing for Arbutus for 35 years, so they know I'm good at it," Reuwer said.