B&B Cleaners: A Crozet Institution

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by Scott Hilles

From left, Becky Kennedy, Betty Rauch and Connie Showers.

Crozet may not (yet) be famous for having the crispest dressers in the state, but Crozet’s only dry cleaners has a long history of caring for our garments and helping us to dress our best.

B&B Cleaners was purchased in 1990 by Buddy and Betty Rauch, hence the name B&B. Buddy passed away in 2002, and Betty has run the business continuously since its purchase.  The Rauch family is the third of three families who have had a hand in providing Crozet with its dry cleaning at the same location on Crozet Avenue for almost seventy years.

In 1946, brothers Frank and Harold O’Neil opened the dry cleaners business, complete with a WWII era Quonset hut. After the war, the military sold many of its surplus Quonset huts, and it is likely, though not confirmed, that the galvanized metal and curved roofed building that still stands behind the storefront saw service in the war.

In 1951, George and Robert Trimble purchased the cleaners and named it Trimbles. With dry cleaning experience in Staunton, these brothers ran the store together for ten years until George and his family moved back to Staunton. George’s daughter is Jean Trimble Wagner, another familiar Crozet name—she and her family are stockholders and employees at Crozet Great Valu. Jean remembers running around the store when she was a child. Robert and his wife Anne continued to run the business until they retired in 1990.

Upon the Trimbles’ retirement, Buddy and Betty bought the business. At the time, Buddy was managing the Fruit Grower’s Co-Op and already contributing to Crozet’s economic growth by renting out Co-Op owned retail space in the 1980s to two of Crozet’s long-standing businesses, Crozet Pizza and The  Green Olive Tree.

There is a commonality in these three owners’ stories, and it is what has made Crozet a great village in which to reside, family run businesses. From the O’Neil family, long involved in local business during Crozet’s early days, to the Trimbles and the Rauchs, brothers, husbands and wives, and children have all played a role in Crozet businesses and specifically in Crozet’s one-and-only cleaners.

Buddy and Betty Rauch, their two children, Becky and Beth, as well as Becky’s and her husband Chuck’s children, have all worked at B&B Cleaners at one time or another. The Rauch granddaughters were all Western Albemarle High School and then Longwood College graduates.

One mainstay at Trimbles and then B&B is Connie Showers who has been working there since 1980.  She currently begins her 5 a.m. day at the cleaners running the machines and also doing alterations. She likely knows the building better than anyone else.

The cleaners actually is made up of four buildings—the store front, the Quonset hut where ironing and alterations are done and completed clothes hang, a building that supplies the steam, and a room that contains the washers, driers, dry cleaner unit, and additional ironing equipment. A number of the Huebsch commercial machines date from the 1940s and are still locally serviced.

The neighborhood around the cleaners has changed some over the years. There is more asphalt now and fewer trees. The Crozet Bank, which was diagonally across the street, was torn down in the 1980s. The movie theatre that was beside what is now Mountainside Senior Living is also gone. The next-door neighbors were once the Pool Parlor and lunch counter, and the Post Office. They both moved across the street. The second location of the Pool Parlor now houses La Cocina del Sol. Across from B&B was also the Crozet Shoe Shop, owned by Lester Washington, and Modern Barber Shop which is still owned by the McCauley family through three generations.

Betty is closing in on twenty-five years owning B&B Cleaners. Over the years she has seen it all—has found numerous unmentionables in garments, but is not wishing to air anyone’s dirty laundry. A bullet put a hole in the wall behind the counter once, and someone stole the trademark round clock that had hung outside over the door for many years. The store’s van was once used in the 1991 movie Toy Soldiers, filmed at the Miller School.

But mostly the operation has served customers who have exchanged clothes, dirty to clean, swapped their ripped garments or too-tight pants for newly altered ones, and shared news and gossip with Betty, Becky, and Connie concerning Crozet and sports at Western.

If you like to read, you can drop off or pick up a used book from the book rack. And make sure to bring your change if you bring your children inside. They are sure to want a gumball from the machine. (Proceeds go to charity.) Now that is full-service.

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