Halls Cleaners gets new owner as Mynatt retires

Sandra ClarkHalls, Our Town Leaders

The leadership lesson from Chris Mynatt is “Make a plan. Know where you’re going. And have a way out.”


Chris said he discussed this with his dad, the late Jack Mynatt, who founded Halls Cleaners on March 1, 1958. Jack’s plan was to have Chris take over, and it worked. Chris’s plan was to grow the business, make it attractive to buyers, and then sell it. That plan culminated on March 1, 2022, when Chris sold his business to Crossville resident Lee Daugherty, 38. Chris stayed for a one-month transition, and we caught up with him at the beginning of April, just before he left for good.

Daugherty owns dry cleaning businesses in Crossville, Oak Ridge and Cedar Bluff. In addition to Halls Cleaners, he bought from Chris the Robbins Cleaners in Fountain City and Paramount U-li-ka Cleaners on Broadway.

“The industry has been shrinking for the past 20 years,” Chris said. And it’s hard to find and retain good employees. “The work is hot, hard and physical.”

Surprisingly, Chris Mynatt did not cite the two-year Covid pandemic as a reason for his retirement. “A lot of the smaller dry cleaners went away (leaving a bigger market share for those remaining),” he said. “I’ve been at this for 40 years. I was ready (to leave). … The industry is different than when I started, but (making) it (work) can be done.”

Mynatt said some of his employees are staying on with the new owner, while others have left.

“Halls and the surrounding areas have been good to me, good to us – me and my dad,” Chris said.

Helen and Jack Mynatt, founders of Halls Cleaners.

His parents, Jack and Helen Mynatt, lived on Doris Circle, just minutes from the store. Chris owns a farm where he raises beef cattle. He already feels better physically, he said, and looks forward to spending time on the lake or hiking in the mountains. He’s already thinking about his next business, though. “I may go deeper into home-grown freezer beef. I’m open to where the future takes me. I’ll stay busy.”

Helen Mynatt was a stay-at-home mom after Chris was born in 1963. Jack Mynatt’s sister, Mae Taylor, worked for Jack and later for Chris and was a mainstay at the business.

“Dad did pick-up and delivery until the 1970s, and when polyester came in, he survived,” Chris said with a laugh. In fact, he’s re-established pick-up and delivery during the past 10 years. The dry cleaning is centralized at the Halls plant with pick-up and delivery to Robbins and Paramount. Chris even had a Friday pick-up and delivery to Tazewell. Paramount had a contract with UT student housing which Chris maintained when he bought the business.

Chris Mynatt and Jack before him could be counted on to support the Halls community, especially the football team. Chris pioneered a coat donation program through the Halls Welfare Commission. He collected outgrown coats and jackets, cleaned them and displayed them during the Christmas food distribution. Peggy Arnold bought socks (mostly white) and added them to the mix. Folks who needed a boost came through the building at Halls Community Park, got a Christmas meal with extras, a coat or jacket and some socks.

These warm memories of life in Halls Crossroads won’t disappear just because a business changed hands – even a really special business like Halls Cleaners. Halls people will make more memories as the next generation steps up to chase their dreams.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today, Inc.

Jack Mynatt stands in front of his first store, located along with the Rexall Drugs near the old Freeway Motel. The building was taken when Hwy. 33 was widened through Halls. Claude Stanley built the first phase of Halls Shopping Center and both businesses moved into it, along with the Piggly Wiggly.

 

This photo shows Halls Cleaners before it was expanded and the entrance placed at the rear of Halls Shopping Center.

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