German Village Gazette

Seamstress stitches together five-decades-long career

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Spending 50 years at Caskey's Dry Cleaning Co. wasn't enough for Mary Anders.

She finally retired at 67, five decades after she started a part-time job in the company's warehouse, because of health problems.

But the owners of the company implored her to return, when and if she recovered.

"My bosses said come back," said Anders, now 75. "We'll keep a seat for you."

Her fellow employees say Anders is one of a kind, a real trooper who endures the insufferable heat of summer and stultifying hum of sewing machines to do her job as a seamstress.

She doesn't think anything of it.

"The people here are good," she said. "The customers are nice. I just enjoy the whole atmosphere."

Anders said she's worked on all sorts of garments, from elaborate wedding dresses to everyday slacks.

Anders now works on a Singer sewing machine, built in the 1940s.

Her skill level is something to be admired, said Debbie Kinser, the head clerk who has worked at the cleaners for 28 years.

"She's amazing," Kinser said. "If you give her something you think can't be fixed, she'll figure out a way to fix it.

"I can't tell you she is probably one of the most caring, giving individuals you'll ever meet."

Anders, who was raised on the South Side, applied for a job while she was a junior at St. Mary Catholic School in German Village. She got a job Feb. 20, 1957, working part-time in the warehouse and later ascending to her job as seamstress.

She grew up sewing at home and later took classes to further her trade.

She has paired her schedule down to 18 hours a week, basically working from 5:30 to 11:30 a.m. three days a week.

Anders has made a lot of friends in her time at Caskey's, employee Leonard Wills said.

"She's pleasant, very pleasant, easygoing," said Willis, who's worked there 12 years. "I've never seen her upset. She's an asset to the company," Willis said.

"I don't know anybody who doesn't like her. Some people drop by just to see her."

Caskey's Dry Cleaning Co. is located in a somewhat obscured battleship-gray building at 47 E. Gates St., just south of the Brewery District.

It was founded in 1901 as Kossman Cleaners and was later purchased by George Caskey, who renamed it. Weldon Hill bought the company in the late 1930s but decided to keep the name because the store was well-established. His sons, Lloyd and Keith, purchased the business in the late 1970s.

Mike Hill, son of the Lloyd Hill, who's semi retired, now works in the business full time.

Mike Hill said Anders is an inspiration to all employees, from her work ethic to her pleasant attitude to her skill level.

"She's great," Hill said. "She's known me since I was an infant.

That's the funny thing about it."

And she knows the business.

"She's probably forgotten more about the ins and outs of dry cleaning than I'll ever know," Hill said.

Anders, now lives in Grove City, where her father opened the Heimat Haus in the 1940s. It has since been sold.

She said hard work is probably in her heritage.

Her mother worked in the restaurant until she was 92.

She said she'll keep going "as long as I feel good."

"Right now I feel pretty good," she said.

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