Reina P. Cunningham
Thanks to their four generations of service in Middlesboro and surrounding counties, Sharp’s Cleaners has been selected for this week’s installment of Surviving the Hard Times.
Sharp’s is located at119 Amesbury Avenue in Middlesboro. Bill Johnson is the current owner.
Johnson’s great-grandfather, Will Sharp, opened the dry cleaning business in 1947. Sharp remained owner for several years until he became ill and had to sell the company.
Jack Sharp, Johnson’s great-uncle, purchased the business from Will sometime in the 1950s.
Johnson purchased the business fromJack in 1990. The business closed its doors for about a year due to Jack falling ill.
John and his wife, Pam, have remained owners of the family business for the past 23 years. Their daughter, Chandler, is currently working at the store while in between jobs.
In 1999, the Johnsons’ desire to continue to serve Middlesboro helped them to decide to further invest in the family business by expanding the services they offered.
“(We) saw that if (we) wanted to stay in this area, (we were) going to have to diversify and get into something else,” explained Johnson. “(We) took a leap of faith.”
The leap of faith proved worthwhile for the business. Sharp’s now offers uniform rentals for eight businesses throughout the Tri-State area.
The uniform rental business is a relatively simple process allowing businesses to ensure their employees are properly dressed for work.
When a company decides to purchase uniforms from Sharp’s, they are delivered six sets of uniforms per employee to the company. Sharp’s then returns at the end of the week to pick up the dirty uniforms to launder. When they pickup the soiled uniforms, they also drop off an additional five sets of clean uniforms. This process repeats week after week, keeping the employees supplied with clean uniforms.
The expansion of his great-grandfather’s business did not stop there.
In 2008, Johnson purchased A&A Cleaners in Harrogate, Tenn. A&A is located at 7110 Cumberland Gap Parkway.
Johnson’s son, Brad, has a degree from Lincoln Memorial University and manages the Harrogate store. Bill purchased the business so his son could remain close to home while using his degree to further expand the family business.
“He wanted to stay in the area and we thought it would be a good venture for us,” explained Bill.
In addition to owning the dry cleaning businesses, Johnson also serves as school board chairman for the Middlesboro Independent School district.
Both stores are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To nominate a long-standing locally owned business to be featured in Surviving the Hard Times, contact Reina Parker Cunningham at 606-248-1010, ext. 205, email@example.com.