Craig Bolden (from left), his mom Joan Bolden and his sister Beth (Bolden) Miller will reopen Bolden’s Dry Cleaners with shiny new equipment, including a new dry-cleaning machine (left), new washers and dryers, and eight new clothing presses. The Times photos by Betsy Reason
Craig Bolden (from left), his mom Joan Bolden and his sister Beth (Bolden) Miller will reopen Bolden’s Dry Cleaners with shiny new equipment, including a new dry-cleaning machine (left), new washers and dryers, and eight new clothing presses. The Times photos by Betsy Reason

The fences are finally down, electricity and plumbing are working, and new dry-cleaning machines are installed.

Final inspections were done last Friday, with training this week for employees.

Bolden's Dry Cleaners in downtown Noblesville will reopen for business on Saturday.

"We're just excited. We want to get back to feel like we're part of the community," said Beth (Bolden) Miller, who has worked in the family business for the past 25 years.

It's been 10 months since the community watched a fire destroy the 55-year-old, three-generation business on the Thursday afternoon of March 26, 2015.

Tears were shed that day. And for days and months after as owner Joan Bolden and her son, Craig Bolden, and daughter, Beth (Bolden) Miller, contemplated what to do.

To rebuild or not to rebuild?

"It took us three months before Mom and Craig and I decided," Miller, 53, Noblesville said. "The community kept wanting us. That was a big decision-maker. We had a lot of people who wanted us to come back."

The electrical fire - which started in one of the clothing carousels near the drive-thru sliding door - only lasted 15 minutes. But everything was gone.

From the exterior, the 25-year-old Bolden's Dry Cleaners building at 151 N. Eighth St., didn't look so bad. Except for the awning on the building's east side that burned.

But inside, the dry cleaners' space was totally ruined from the front to the back, including the machinery. "Everything was melted. There wasn't anything left on the conveyors," Miller said.

Plastic that covered customers' clothing was melted onto the clothes. Computers were melted onto the counters. The dry-cleaning machines' computer panels were also melted.

Even the clothing, at the front of the conveyors that could be seen outside by bystanders watching the fire, was ruined. "The plastic kind of shrunk-wrapped onto the clothes. There was no saving any customers' clothing, unfortunately," Miller said.

With Bolden's being closed, the phones were also down. Customers' calls went to voicemail.

"We didn't know what to tell people," said Miller, who was first waiting on the fire department, then on the insurance company. "We really feel bad about the lack of communication with the customers."

After the insurance company gave the OK, Bolden's started contacting the customers who had items there. Miller and longtime employee Renee Roy of Cicero spent two weeks in June calling more than 550 customers from a list that was luckily saved and retrieved from the melted computers and flash drives by Scott LePere of OnRamp Indiana internet company in Noblesville. The list had each customer's name with the item brought in for dry-cleaning. Bolden's also published a newspaper advertisement and put a notice on Facebook, hoping to reach those who didn't answer their phones.

Customers were offered the opportunity to come to their Harbourtown Center store to complete claims for lost clothing. The Harbourtown store, which was a pick-up and drop-off location, has since closed because Bolden's didn't have a place to dry-clean customers' items.

Fortunately, Bolden's didn't have any customers' wedding dresses or prom dresses, although there were a few sentimental items that were destroyed. "We would apologize all over ourselves," Miller said.

During the closure, Bolden's referred customers to "friendly competitors" Jan Deering Cleaners on the Square and to Prestige Dry Cleaners, which took over their lease at Harbourtown Center.

As Bolden's reopens on Saturday, its 56th year in business, the same loyal, friendly employees will be there. But everything else is brand new, from the seamless decorative flooring to the granite countertops and white cabinets. There's even a coffee station in the front lobby for early-morning customers who want to stop in and chat.

"I wish we could have opened sooner," said Joan Bolden, Cicero, who'll turn 77 on Jan. 24. While she still remembers the sadness in her heart on the day that her store burned, she had a big smile on her face this week. She's excited about the opening and getting back to serving her customers. She said it's "good service" that has been key to longevity. "I love our customers. We have wonderful customers," said Joan Bolden, as she bounced around the store, learning about each new machine.

This visit to Bolden's offered a lesson in how clothing is dry cleaned.

While there is no water involved in dry cleaning, it is a wet process. The clothing item gets wet with chemicals and then dries in the same machine, which resembles a large front-loading washer. Items with labels that read, "Do Not Dry Clean," are washed in big washers. On this particular day, Miller's own bed comforter was in the big washer as they tested and trained on the new equipment.

Bolden's employees read every label to make sure items are cleaned correctly and safely. If a label reads, "Hand Wash, Hang Dry," Miller said, those items are put in mesh bags in a gentle-cycle wash. The store presses every item. Even heavily beaded dresses are pressed with padded presses for a softer touch.

And the store has lots of presses: a pant presser, a sleeve presser, and one with a form for dresses and sport coats. There's also a shirt station with a press that resembles a robot that comes down, dries a wet shirt and presses sleeves and shirt cuffs, and then another part of the station stretches shirt collars.

"You're going to have a perfect collar," Craig Bolden, 49, Noblesville, said as he demonstrated with his own freshly laundered shirt. He said about 40 to 45 shirts can be pressed per hour. Up until the fire, the shirts were hand-finished.

He moved to another machine, a form-fitting sleeve unit that would steam a sleeve. "This will do the perfect sleeve" on dry-clean items, he said.

He also drew attention to a new "dry-to-dry" dry-cleaning machine that would clean and dry 60 pounds, or 30 to 50 pieces dependent on weight, of clothing items at one time. "The important thing is clean solvent," he said pointing to three tanks on the machine that hold chemicals. He drops every load to a still that cooks the solvent and gets rid of impurities. There are three sets of filters, an all-carbon that gets rid of all of the dyes in case an item bleeds, a tank with carbon-core filter for light clothing and another tank with a filter for darks. Then the clothing goes through a spin disc filter that takes out lint.

All of the equipment, the presses, and the conveyors are all high-tech. And the machines use environmentally friendly green technology and chemicals.

Craig Bolden said, "Nothing's hazardous, not like it used to be, which is fabulous."

Want TO GO?

What: Bolden's Dry Cleaners will re-open for business on Saturday.

Where: 151 N. Eighth St., Noblesville.

Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, closed Sundays.

Info: (317) 773-3884.

GOOD TO KNOW

For quality purpose, each machine at Bolden's Dry Cleaners also has a clothes iron.

A clothes iron is a small appliance that not many people seem to use anymore.

That's why Bolden's also does pressing for people who don't want to iron their own clothes, from dress shirts to khaki pants and golf shirts

BOLDEN'S: 56 YEARS OF DRY CLEANING

Bolden's Dry Cleaners has a rich history in Noblesville.

In 1960, Edward Bolden and his wife, Bing, purchased the Noblesville Cleaners and Shirt Laundry, at the northwest corner of Eighth and Conner streets, from Orville Bays. In the early 1970s, Ed Bolden suffered a heart attack, so his son, Jere Bolden, and Jere's wife, Joan Bolden (whose own family had Meridian Heights Cleaners for 75 years at 49th and Pennsylvania), came on board at the business, then took over after Ed Bolden's death.

In 1973, when the Boldens moved from Indianapolis to Noblesville with their four children, Kurt, Beth, Craig and Susan, the dry cleaners became a family affair, with all of the children working there when each was old enough.

In the fall of 1973, the business's name changed to Bolden's Dry Cleaners. In 1980, Bolden's opened a second store in Harbourtown Center in Noblesville. In 1986, when Craig Bolden graduated from the International Fabric Institute, he came to work full time. The other siblings went their separate ways. Kurt Bolden went into the water restoration and commercial-drying business. Miller was a flight attendant before she returned to work at Bolden's 25 years ago.

Joan Bolden, now the sole owner, built the current 5,000-square-foot dry-cleaners building in 1990, after the former property was taken over by the County by eminent domain and razed during the Courthouse Expansion Project. The dry cleaners was located where the Hamilton County Government & Judicial Center now stands.

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