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Local cleaners closes after more than 70 years in business

Stacey Spivey
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 5:55pm

Whenever World War II had begun in 1942, Vernon and Millie Gray opened Gray Cleaners in Jacksonville. "They opened with one employee, one press, and they had lots and lots of business," said Joann Gray Moore, owner. After more than 70 years of pressing on, they've closed their doors.

"We are blessed, and we have been blessed all through the years," said Moore, daughter-in-law of the late Grays and widow to their son Kenneth Gray. Moore joined the family business when she married into the family, and has been working their ever since. "I married Kenneth right out of high school, then two years later had Elaine, and this has just been our life," said Moore. Whenever Kenneth passed she took over.

On July 25, 2014 they closed the cleaners. "72 years is a long time to keep a store open and I'm getting older and she (Elaine) is too," said Moore.

Ovester Summer worked as a cleaner there since 1957, and stayed until the very last day. He said, " when you work in a place as long as I worked here, you can't just throw it out of your mind, I can't."  He said it was his love for cleaning and for the Gray family that kept him coming back every morning. "They were just so nice to me, and if I was treated nice, why should I leave?"

It's that legacy that has been seen into the hearts of east Texans. They had business with people in Jacksonville, Bullard, Tyler, Alto, and many more. As far as the reaction from those customers went, Moore and her daughter, Elaine Gray Skates said, "grown men have cried. We actually had attorneys down the street come in and they actually had crocodile tears. That's how close we are with our customers, and we've shared so much throughout the years."

Moore and Skates are working on returning all clothes to their owners, and said everything that's left over will go to the crisis center.

Moore also told KETK they're selling the building, but haven't made any final agreements yet.

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