Colonial Cleaners owners retiring after more than 50 years

12:05 AM, Mar 21, 2013   |    comments
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Richard and Dot Davis pose for a picture with firefighters

After more than 50 years in business, the couple behind a still-thriving shop are ready to retire.

Richard and Dorothy "Dot" Davis own Colonial Cleaners, located off W. Anderson Avenue in North Knoxville. Richard and his brother, George, moved the business to that location from a smaller operation in South Knoxville in the late 1950s.

Cleaning was already a family business well before the Happy Hollow location opened. Davis learned much of the trade from his father, who ran a laundry business.

"Dad said, 'just as soon as you get out of school, come on over here,'" Davis remembers.

After school, he joined the Navy. While on board a ship in the Pacific Ocean, Davis put his skills to use.

"One day one of his officers said, 'Did you know how to do some dry cleaning and laundry in your regular life?'" Recalls his wife. "And he said yes. 'Would you like to do it here on the ship?'"

When Davis returned to civilian life, he and his brother opened the South Knoxville location, then later settled north of the river. There, they grew the business which became known for not only dry cleaning clothes, but also handling suede and leather items as well.

Davis' brother retired a few years ago, and now he and his wife are ready, too.

"Mostly just stay home and being a housewife, I'm looking forward to that," Dot said. "I'll have to do my laundry at home now like everybody else does!"

They will work their last day on April 2nd, but until then they remain very busy.

"We are so pleased that our customers have stayed faithful... we've been as busy as we've ever been!" said the couple's eldest daughter, Brenda Tenpenny, who also works at the store.

Many of those customers have become friends through the years, including local emergency responders who have had their uniforms cleaned by Colonial for years.

"We bring our clothes in and drop them off, and they were always real good about making sure everything was just perfect," said Knoxville Fire Department Master Firefighter Jeff Jones. "Got it done, and got it done quick, right back to us, because they knew we needed it."

He expressed his gratitude for the couple, and explained their impact on the community.

"They've touched community in ways they'll never understand, and they will be greatly missed."

The other staff plans to retire or leave when the Davises do. The couple says somebody else may buy the businesses to keep the cleaners open.

A retirement party is planned for the couple on Friday, March 22nd at All Occasion Catering Banquet Hall. The event begins at 4:00 p.m.

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