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What is the most historic building in Oklahoma City?
Master Cleaners PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Lackmeyer   
Friday, 11 December 2009 00:00


Classen Boulevard, early days

On the bustling Classen Boulevard, so many stories are awaiting to be told: the Milk Bottle Building, the original Classen Cafeteria, Rainbow Records, Kamps, the Gold Dome, and of course, the Vietnamese refugees who made the area their new home. But we're telling a story of an unlikely target for historic preservation: Master Cleaners.

Masters Cleaners, circa late 1940s


Master Cleaners got its start in 1922 when Ash Norris Sr. opened his first dry cleaning shop at 1206 NW 18. The business moved several times over the few years, locating at 1807 N Classen, then 1107 N Olie in 1933, to 2520 N Classen in 1936, and on to 2710 N Classen in 1939. In 1946 Norris and his wife Jonnie built their own shop at 2717 N Classen.

The Art Deco style building with its Vitrolite glass facade and curved storefront window was an attractive addition to the strip, and the business continued to thrive when it was bought by Mel Gower Sr. and his wife Dee in 1962. Their son Chief went to work at the shop in 1982, and when Mel Sr. died in 1984 his wife Dee took over until 1991. It was then that Chief Gower took over the property. Gower restored the neon sign but his family had also renovated the outside of the shop, removing the Vitrolite glass and covering the facade with shingles. 

Masters Cleaners, 2003

During their tenure they had seen celebrity customers including Raymond Burr, Johnny Bench and Jim Stafford. But by the early 200s the shop was on the verge of closing even as the rest of Classen Boulevard was enjoying a resurgence. The equipment was breaking down, the shop was worn out. The Gowers sold the cleaners and surrounding properties to Monte Turrentine, who already owned Legacy Cleaners at 4917 N Western. Turrentine had first become acquainted with Gower in 1999 when Legacy was contracted to do Master wholesale work. The shop was sold to Turrentine in 2006.

Masters Cleaners, 2009Turrentine followed up with a $500,000 renovation that upgraded all the interior equipment and restored the original facade. Working with the photo shown above, Turrentine found a vendor who salvaged old Vitrolite glass and helped restore the original facade. Turrentine also duplicated the original sign.

When asked why he invested so much in the facade restoration, Turrentine said he saw the project as a way to kick off development he hopes to launch on properties next door and across the street. Customers, he said, have embraced the restoration and Master Cleaners is once again a thriving part of Classen Boulevard.

- "Owners Celebrate Master Cleaners 80th Anniversary," by Max Nichols, Journal Record, September 3, 2002

- "Made in Oklahoma: Master Cleaners," by Steve Lackmeyer, The Oklahoman, Sepbember 2, 2009










Last Updated on Sunday, 13 December 2009 01:28