Hagen’s Dry Cleaners found itself once again unable to clean clothes Jan. 1. The latest crisis began when owner Charlie Yancey sent a text to building manager Bill Snyder New Year’s Day.
“There is a problem at the dry cleaners,” the cryptic text read.
Snyder said he called Yancey, who repeated what was said in the text and added, “Now it’s your problem. Happy New Year.”
A text he sent the same day to former owner Sylvia Baker, whose parents opened the cleaners in 1961, said, “Happy New Years Sylvia. The dry cleaners is once again yours, if you want it. Otherwise it’s Bill’s problem. Either way I’m done. . .”
According to Snyder and Baker, Yancey was purchasing the store from Baker, and the state of that purchase is now unclear.
Yancey declined comment when contacted by phone Thursday.
Hagen’s closed for three weeks last summer because the dry-cleaner broke, according to Marci Huss, who was managing the store for Yancey at the time, but when the machine was fixed, Snyder said he locked Yancey out until he installed a city-required backflow preventer, extending the closure.
Backflow preventers stop contaminated water from flowing back into a water system during periods when pressure drops in the main system.
The store was closed again in October for less than a week because Yancey had not paid the electric bill, according to a note posted on the door by management.
In August, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Communications Manager Donnie Oliveira said Hagen’s had not filed its last two yearly reports and had not been inspected by the DEQ in more than a year.
“Oregon dry cleaners must file yearly reports,” Oliveira said. “The reports detail chemical purchases, chemical disposal and facility changes.”
Yancey had not paid his fees to DEQ either, according to Oliveira. His case was referred to the Oregon Department of Revenue, he said. Yancey owes the state $2,700.
A DEQ inspection Aug. 30 faulted Yancey with multiple violations having to do with the storage and use of perc — the chemical perchloroethylene used in the dry cleaning process and found to be toxic to humans — and he was sent a pre-enforcement notice citing violations found at the cleaners.
The notice prepared by DEQ Air Quality Specialist Martin Abts included violations for perc containers stored in areas without secondary containment, one perc container leaking, two perc containers without required labeling and another perc container with a cracked lid connected to an operating dry-cleaner and leaking perc vapor.
Other violations targeted the lack of documentation for machine inspections and the disposal of toxic materials.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, perchloroethylene (perc) is considered a toxic air pollutant known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects including neurological problems. Perc exposure might also cause adverse effects in the kidney, liver, immune system and hematologic system, and on development and reproduction.
The DEQ notice states the violations caused significant environmental harm or posed the risk of significant environmental harm and said the matter had been referred to the Department’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement for formal enforcement action. Enforcement actions could result in civil penalties, a department order or civil penalties for each day of violation.
DEQ issued the pre-enforcement notice Oct. 16, according to Public Affairs Specialist Katherine Benenati.
“We sent the notice to the mailing address we had on record for Mr. Yancey and to his mother’s mailing address as well,” Benenati said. “On Dec. 26, the notice DEQ sent to Charlie’s mailing address came back with a ‘Return to Sender’ notification.”
She added, “We have a pending enforcement case that is moving forward.”
Yancey hung up when the Pilot contacted him by phone Friday to ask about the alleged violations.
Baker said she was attempting to reopen the cleaners and serve the community.
“I’m doing everything I can to keep a dry cleaners in Brookings,” she said. “We will be open and taking clothes for cleaning and returning cleaned clothes.”
Hagen’s will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but will be unable to clean clothes until a part for the boiler arrives, according to Baker. The boiler makes steam necessary to operate some of the store’s equipment.
Hagen’s staff said they did not know when the part would arrive.
Huss and Baker said the business is short on perc and other supplies, and those issues along with the broken boiler were making it difficult to reopen.
Baker said she would hire Yancey’s former employees Huss and Derek Didio to staff the store.
According to Snyder, Yancey has signed a lease on the cleaners through March 15, but Snyder said he included stipulations in the lease requiring Yancey to be in compliance with the DEQ, to have the boiler inspected and certified and to be in compliance with all other pertinent agencies.
The lease could be renewed for one to three years, Snyder said, if the stipulations were met.
He said the January rent was unpaid as of Jan. 1, and late fees will be added if it is not paid by Jan. 4.
Yancey would default on the lease if he does not pay by Jan. 10, according to Snyder.
“I just want to apologize to the community,” Baker said of the ongoing issues, “but I can’t get out of the contract (with Yancey) until he misses two payments.”
Baker said her plans are to get back to offering good service and then sell Hagen’s again. Staff will call customers as soon as they can get items cleaned, she added.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org .