From dry cleaners to outdoor store

By Kristen Morales

Finally, the New Way Cleaners building will see some new life brought into it.

Work has started on the 1940s-era building, which will be the new home of Half-Moon Outfitters’ Athens location. This summer, the outdoor gear retailer plans to move from its current location in Five Points to the 10,000-square-foot space in the former dry cleaners building, and the work on the building will only enhance its attributes, says Half-Moon’s owner, Beezer Molten.

One of the main features of the building highlighted by its new owner is the barrel-vaulted ceiling, similar to what’s now visible at Creature Comforts Brewing Co. Overall, says Molten and project architect Lori Bork, the renovation work will simply highlight its natural features.

“We’re really trying to keep it simple by highlighting the building structure itself. That’s what makes it so great,” says Bork. “This being retail, I think it will really enhance what they’re trying to do, and it will show off the building nicely.”

As a former dry cleaners, the residual chemicals had to be dealt with before anything could happen to the building. The owners, Molten said, wanted to cooperate, and with the help of a team of environmental engineers, realtor Jay Boswell and the state EPD, Molten put a plan in place to purchase the building and make it safe for future use.

“Otherwise, the building would have just sat there forever,” he said. “But now we’ve got it where it needs to be, and by the time we’re done renovating, it will be completely safe and clean.”

The plan is to clean up the interior of the building, including removing a creepy fur-coat vault left over from the days of the dry cleaners, removing old paint and updating the ductwork to a modern system. The old system’s ventilation shafts, which extend through the roof, will be replaced with skylights that will help make the building more green and highlight the historic wood ceiling.

The front parking lot will be repaved and reconfigured mainly for handicapped parking, and the sidewalks and curbs will be repaired or replaced. The back of the building, on the opposite side from Prince Avenue, will be repaved and serve as the primary parking lot. Along the Barber Street side there will be new landscaping, pathways and awnings, plus an enhanced second entrance to the building. The Coca-Cola signs will be returned to the family who owned the building.

This will be the second barrel-vaulted ceiling on display for Athens, after Creature Comforts renovated and restored theirs in the brewery’s building on Hancock Street. Both buildings were constructed in the early- to mid-1940s.