Peacock-Salem closes historic location, moves down street

SALEM – For more than 77 years, Salem area people have been taking their clothes, sheets, draperies and rugs to Peacock-Salem Launderers & Cleaners on Colorado Street.

After Saturday, they’ll be taking them a few blocks away to what was Skyline Cleaners, now Skyline Peacock, on the corner of College and Seventh Street.

Longtime Peacock-Salem employee Debbie Naugle stands at the counter in Peacock-Salem Dry Cleaners with owner David Mays. Peacock-Salem will close its 77-year-old storefront Aug. 18 and move in with Skyline to become Skyline Peacock. Photo by Meg Hibbert

The Peacock location that opened in 1935 is closing and merging with Skyline Cleaners. They’re both in the same ownership and have been since Jan. 3 of this year when David Mays bought the companies and others.

“We hope all our customers will follow us down the street,” said Debbie Naugle, who works the front counter and has been at Peacock-Salem for almost 17 years. She’s moving over to the Skyline location and will do her same morning shift, 7 a.m. until noon. Also making the move is Lynn Wilson, and Naugle’s husband, Marty, who is a route driver for Peacock and the other dry cleaners Mays owns.

Those are Skyline, Peacock-Salem, Vinton Dry Cleaners, Air-Lee Dry Cleaners and a new one, Highland Cleaners, in Clifton Forge.

This 1956-era photo shows Peacock-Salem Launderers & Cleaners' exterior looking much the same as it does today, with cars of that day. Salem museum photo

We want our customers to travel to our other locations with us,” said General Manager Mark Terry, who was making the Salem run with Mays last week.

Mays explained it didn’t make sense to keep the 24,000-square foot Peacock building open as only a storefront. Dry cleaning and laundry haven’t been done in the plant since Bob Jones of Air-Lee bought it in 2000. Until then, cleaning operations were done in the back of the building where between 75 and 100 people were employed years ago.

Now all the cleaning operations are done at Air-Lee’s main location on Williamson Road in Roanoke.

Mays said he personally called a number of Peacock-Salem customers to tell them about the planned move, and to encourage them to follow the business to Skyline. He also said he planned to take out an advertisement in the Salem Times-Register thanking people and saying goodbye to the building.

Mays acknowledged people will miss the old building. “Peacock-Salem has a tremendous amount of emotionalism attached. It has been an icon in the community,” he said, adding that he has moved photographs of Peacock-Salem and other memorability to the Skyline location.

Naugle, who is 4-foot-11, stands at the counter wearing her favorite old smock with pockets, greeting people and tagging their cleaning. “I’m going to miss coming here. It’s a routine I’m so used to. I got to know a lot of the customers really well,” she said.

When she first started work at Peacock-Salem, she worked in the front, “and then transferred to the back, “doing the tagging of the dry cleaning until they closed the plant part,” she said. “Two ladies up front would take the customers’ names and put the clothes and things to be washed in two buggies to be sent to the laundry and dry cleaning. Then we would bring the cleaned items back up here and hang them on the racks.”

All the customers’ tickets were written by hand, Naugle added. “We didn’t get computers until Bob Jones bought the business.”

She recalled when she first went to Peacock-Salem, “It cost maybe $4 to clean a pair of pants; shirts were about $1.50. Now it’s $6 for pants and shirts, $2.40.”

Current Peacock-Salem customers will get a discount at Skyline Peacock, Mays said.

Why has Naugle stayed so long at Peacock-Salem? “It worked out good. I liked the hours. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people, and like talking with them. When I first started working here, I was kind of shy. I maybe talk too much now.”

The Peacock-Salem building has been in family ownership since January 1935 when Frederick and Logan’s grandfather, John Lee Logan, bought the business from the Wiley family. In a 1956 advertising supplement, it was praised as “one of the modern plants of its kind in Virginia” and said to employ 75 people.

Before that, there was the Salem Steam Laundry, which opened November 1925, and was built to replace a building lost in a fire two months before, according to Woody Middleton’s book: “Salem: A Virginia Chronicle.”

There used to be a stuffed peacock sitting on shelves in the corner when Frederick and Logan’s parents, Joe Logan and his wife, Florence, owned the business. The peacock tied in with the Wiley family, who raised peacocks on their farm on Wildwood Road near Salem, said Frederick. She and Logan, own the building, which will be for sale when the lease expires the end of August, Frederick said. She added they have already had one person look at the property.

David Mays said all eight employees at Skyline on College are staying. There are three Skyline locations: the College location, one on West Main and a third on Brandon Road in Roanoke.

Mays was an executive with Allstate Insurance for 27 years and lived in Roanoke for 21 years before moving to Chicago.

They wanted to move back home, he said, and he bought the dry cleaners. His wife, Anne, still works with Allstate. They live in Botetourt County with their daughter, Ashley, who is 14 and a ninth grader at Lord Botetourt High School. “Ashley has been a customer service rep at the College Street location,” he added. “She’s going to be knee-deep in the Peacock tradition.”