Joe Greenwood has been in business in downtown West Point longer than some people have been alive.
Greenwood, better known as “Joe the Tailor,” has operated Joe’s Cleaners at 717 2nd Avenue for 65 years, the longest continuing business to date in the city. He retired earlier this month at the age of 93.
“It’s for health reasons,” Greenwood said. His younger brother Godfrey, who ran the business with him, retired last year.
The city declared Wednesday as Joe Greenwood Day in West Point, and honored the man with a proclamation at a ceremony in City Hall, across the street and railroad tracks from where Greenwood worked for so many years.
“This is a day to celebrate and thank you for being here,” said Joe Hill, chairman of the city’s downtown development authority. “You have been a vital part of the community.”
Hill said as a boy he’d deliver calendars to downtown businesses for his father, who owned an insurance agency. Hill now works for J. Smith Lanier Insurance, which still gives out calendars.
“I forgot one year and Joe called me up and asked ‘Where’s my calendar?’” Hill joked. “Fifty-five years later and I’m still delivering calendars to Joe Greenwood.”
Members of the community praised Greenwood for his knowledge of history of the community as well as his business sense. Mayor Drew Ferguson IV also would come to the cleaner’s as a boy and would see men there reading the sports page from the local paper. Greenwood would be reading the business section.
“He told me, even as a boy, ‘Invest your money,’” Ferguson said.
City Clerk Richard McCoy met Greenwood when McCoy first came to town, before he worked for the city.
“He told me to buy stock,” McCoy said. “I’d never bought stock before. But every stock he told me to buy did well.”
Elinor Crowder, president of the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, said Greenwood is a model for what small business should be.”
At one time there were five dry cleaners in West Point. With Greenwood’s retirement, there are none.
Greenwood’s decision follows Harris Nader’s decision last year to close Nader’s music, another longtime West Point business.
“We’ve lost more than 100 years of business experience in the last four months,” Ferguson said. “That’s amazing.”
Greenwood told the LaGrange News on his 90th birthday he “fell into” the dry cleaning business. He’d never been sick or missed a day of work and attributed his longevity to “clean living.”
Greenwood attended Lanier High School, which merged with Lanett, Ala. High School, where he played football, basketball and baseball. He went to college at Alabama A&M and served for three years in the Army in the South Pacific during World War II.