Longtime Kettering business set to close later this month

A Kettering business that has become part of the fabric of the community will shut down for good later this month after decades of serving its residents.

John and Joyce Strehle, who are closing Strehle’s Dry Cleaning & Shoe Repair when its lease expires at the end of the month, said the business has been a great way to not only work together and see each other every day for more than five decades, but also forge lifelong bonds with customers.

“You get to know the people,” John Strehle said. “You see them every week, every couple of weeks. You just see them that often, you get to know them and develop a lot of good friends.”

Joyce Strehle said the shop’s clientele are “not really customers,” but family.

“Our customer business is so loyal and kind, but we’re at the age where we want to spend time with our family, our grandchildren,” she said. “I’m a woman of faith and I know God’s got His hand on this because after COVID, I didn’t think we’d ever be able to sell our business.”

Purchasing the business is long-standing business Gahanna-based Clothing Care, which purchased the store’s client list and equipment ahead of opening a Clothing Care location at 3720 Wilmington Pike, John Strehle said. He plans to work there on a part-time basis.

Strehle said his father started Strehle’s Shoe Repair following World War II, eventually operating six Dayton area locations, including one in Kettering. But “as the industry diminished, so did his stores,” he said.

Shortly after getting out of the Army following a tour of duty in Vietnam, Strehle purchased the Kettering shop from his father In October 1971 and married Joyce the next month.

“Then, in 1988, we moved across Woodman Drive and added dry cleaning to it,” Strehle said. “It was strictly a shoe repair shop up until (then).”

The business has seen shifts over the years, with fewer customers bringing in shoes for repair because of a decline in their quality, John Strehle said.

“I started way back when everything was constructed in a different way and they were made to be repaired and a pair of shoes was a real investment,” he said. “And then all the stuff started coming in from overseas and it just became a race to the bottom.”

The dry cleaning side of the business has fluctuated because it has been “more of a fashion business.” “It’ll have its ups and downs over the years and it might come back again, I don’t know,” he said. “But it’s a style. It’s fashion. So that’ll change.”

Announcing the business was closing has led to a series of heartfelt farewells.

“There have been some tears up on the front counter and hugs goodbye,” John Strehle said. “My wife has a very good ear. She listens to people. She will be missed much more than I. That’s not any false modesty or anything. She has given a comforting ear to a lot of people over the years.”

He said he hopes that customers will stop by Strehle’s Dry Cleaning & Shoe Repair before the store closes. Not for the sake of doing commerce, but to bid a fond farewell to his wife, who he said has been “the face of the business.”

“I was just in the back,” he said. “She was the face of the place.”

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