Thursday, August 4, 2005

‘End of An Era’
Burdett’s under new ownership

Staff Writer

Burdett’s Cleaners, in one family since 1948, is about to be turned over to new owner B.J. Thomas Jr.

Owner Garrie Colhoun, who began working at the cleaners for his grandpa, Garrie Burdett, as a teenager, called the turnover of the business “the end of an era.”

“My family dynasty is over in that business,” he said last week.

He will be around to help Thomas with the transition. After that Colhoun said he wants to do some traveling. Then he will decide what his next occupation will be, he said last week.

Colhoun said he is ready to leave the job he has been at “every day of my life.”

“After this I don’t want to tote the key to nothing,” Colhoun said. “I’ve been in management and an owner forever. I want to work for somebody else. I don’t know what I want to do.”

Colhoun recounted how it happened that he discussed the sale of the business with the new owner and with his wife.

“My wife said she would stand behind me whatever decision I made,” he said. “We have no family to carry it on. Me and Sherry had a little cry and a little prayer.”

Colhoun said the sale came up in casual conversation with Barry Thomas.

“I ask him what B.J. was going to do, was he going to college?” Colhoun said. “He said B.J. was looking for a business to operate - that he was not ready to go to college.”

Colhoun said it went from a “not too serious inquiry to gradual negotiations and ended with a gentleman’s agreement - a handshake.”

“It’s a deal?” Thomas asked.

“It’s a deal,” said Colhoun.

Colhoun tells of driving the delivery truck at age 13 for his grandpa after receiving a paper permit from chief of police Glen Rose.

“He gave me a hand-written permit to drive the van to deliver clothes,” Colhoun explained. “Of course it wouldn’t hold up in court. It said, “Little Garrie Burdett has permission to drive the van to deliver clothes only after school.”

Thomas said he secured the business for son B.J. Jr. who is the one who will run it.

“He wanted to go to work and stay here where he grew up. He felt like it would be a good opportunity,” Thomas said.

Thomas said his son decided not to go to school right away because he does not know what he would want to study.

He said the Burdett name will stay on the business.

“We want to continue with that great service and hometown ownership,” Thomas said. “It will be carried on just like Garrie did.”

Colhoun shared the same sentiments.

“I want to thank all my loyal customers who have been here about 60 years,” he said. “I hope they will be loyal to the new owner.”

Colhoun’s staff said the change of the guard came as a surprise. Some said they have shed some tears. But the change won’t be too drastic as Colhoun will be around for a few weeks while the transition takes place.

Lenora Blackmon, who has been at Burdett’s since 1982, said, “It’s been a great, long ride with Garrie.”

During the 23 years of service, Blackmon left to work somewhere else for about three years and came back in 1995.

Renee Taylor joined Burdett’s as a press operator in 1992. She said the staff will miss Colhoun.

“Garrie has been a good boss and he has worked really hard in keeping us just like a family,” she said. “He is a good person and we are really going to miss him and he will probably miss us. He would do anything in the world for any one of us.’

Shelly Evans is a relative newcomer. She has worked four years at Burdett’s with one seven-month gap where she left and then came back.

“I really enjoy working for Garrie and hate to see him go,” she said. “But he’s been here a long time and he really deserves it. I’m going to miss him a lot.”

Chris McCary came to Burdett’s Dry Cleaners in 1997. She said working for Garrie has been a blessing.

“I really have learned a whole lot,” she said. “It has been a very good experience and I thank God for sending me this way to grow me up to be the person I am today.”

Betty Thompson has worked at Burdett’s for 12 years and has been the manager for 11 years.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Garrie. We get along well and work well together and back each other up,” Thompson said. “I will miss him a lot.

“And I know B.J. and it’s not like a total stranger is coming in on us. The Thomas’s are good people and a good Christian family.”

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