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Kay Kleeners closing this week after almost 60 years in business
A vintage Santa Claus stands in the window at Kay Kleeners as it has for a generation. The longtime dry cleaning business on College Avenue will be closing for good this week.

For Cathryn Rice and Betty Humphries, work is life.

The two meet in the early morning every work day for coffee and arrive to open Kay Kleeners together.

They have been the names and faces most closely associated with the business, a dry cleaning service on College Avenue in Gainesville that is closing this week after almost 60 years.

It’s time to retire, and with it shut the doors.

The owners, George and Joey Hokayem, said the industry is changing in a way that makes it hard to keep up with no one in the family to take over. What comes must pass.

The two grew up in the neighborhood around the business.

Their family has owned several businesses in Gainesville, including the much-loved Kool Kone where the Church’s Chicken restaurant sits now.

And that makes Kay Kleeners a family heirloom of sorts.

The Hokayems said they’ve seen the changes over time.

What were once residences are now hotels, banks and small businesses. And, of course, the people come and go.

But Rice and Humphries have been mainstays since the 1960s and ’70s, and the Hokayems credit them with helping build and sustain the business’s legacy.

Like the family business it is, Kay Kleeners was tied into the community it served.

“We treated everyone the same,” Rice said.

It’s a place where customers come back time and again — and not just for the service — and where ticket writing is a formality.

“They’ve been great ladies and good friends,” said customer Luanne Cape, who has been dropping off her dry cleaning for 20 years or more at this very spot. She’ll often bring tomatoes and family news to share.

For Rice and Humphries, the next stage in life brings some uncertainty.

Humphries said her restless ways would keep her serving the homeless as she does at a local mission.

“I can't sit down,” she said. “I’m not a TV watcher.”

Rice thanked her bosses and her patrons, and said she was grateful for the lifetime of memories.

It’s a place that operated for more than just a transaction. It was personal. And a life’s work.

“It’s been a wonderful place to work,” Rice said.