From New York Harbor to New York Dry Cleaners: 80 Years on OTR’s Main Street
Updated: Sep 1, 2022
A portrait of the Andreadis family in the 1930s.
From left to right: Savas, Paul, Harry, Orea, and Sophie Andreadis
Savas Andreadis was born on January 30th, 1897. He was a Greek, born and raised in Turkey. Mr. Andreadis originally arrived in New York Harbor on the S.S. Ioannia, which departed from Piraeus, Greece, in 1913 at the age of sixteen. He had just sixteen dollars to his name at the time. He lived in Chicago and other cities, but on the eve of the Great Depression, came to Cincinnati to join his brother and sister-in-law as a partner in their tailor shop at 234 Broadway Street.
Andreadis rented an apartment on Clay Street. His neighbors were first- and second-generation Irish, Italian, and German working-class families who lived in buildings that continued to show serious signs of age.
In 1920, the population of Cincinnati was 400,000. At least one-fourth of residents lived in dangerous and overcrowded tenements spanning downtown, Over-the-Rhine, and the West End. Industry had been evacuating the city center ever since the railroad began operating in the 1870s. Over-the-Rhine, which had once boasted seventeen breweries, was down to just two, and the rest of its businesses had fared poorly. However, even those in cramped and unsafe conditions, residents still supported small dry goods stores, groceries, butcher shops, and tailors.
Savas Andreadis' wife, Orea Selvestru, was born in Ordu, Turkey on May 9th, 1904. The couple married on May 21st, 1921. Together, they had three children: Paul, Sophie, and Harry. At age 25, Savas returned to the United States alone to earn enough money for his wife and newborn son Paul to join him in America. He worked for six years, and on election day in 1928, Orea and Paul arrived in New York with a first-class ticket.
The exterior sign at 1216 Main Street read, "New York Dry Cleaners."
Upon arriving to the Queen City, the couple set up a dry cleaning and tailoring shop at 1216 Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. The corner of Thirteenth and Main Street was home to New York Dry Cleaners.
For many years, OTR was home to a great deal of German, Italian, and Greek immigrants. However, by the time the Andreadis’ arrived in Cincinnati, it was no longer the kind of city that drew new waves of immigrants. Slow to pick up on the importance of railroad transportation, Cincinnati had been surpassed by places like Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit. The aging city had become a second-rank industrial town.
But many immigrants had already come from Germany, Italy, and Ireland. So where did they settle? Saturated with cheap tenements and in close proximity to the city’s factories, Over-the-Rhine had served as a port of entry. Thousands like the Andreadis' would settle into small apartments and start families in the neighborhood.
Photos of the Andreadis family at New York Dry Cleaners the mid-1900s
During the Depression, Savas worked in his shop seven days a week, sixteen hours a day, to support his family and pay his debts. Through all of this, he watched out the window of his dry cleaning shop as Main Street and Over-the-Rhine changed. Even with years of the New Deal, there wasn't much relief. In 1940, unemployment in the region hovered around 20%. That same year, Andreadis moved his family out of their 1216 Main Street apartment, and into a home in Hyde Park. But New York Dry Cleaners remained.
"Just like my other friends. I made a little money and bought out in the suburbs," Savas Andreadis said in a Cincinnati Enquirer interview with reporter Tom Schroder.
In 1972, Savas left his business in the hands of his son and daughter, Paul and Sophie. His children ran the family business and managed three floors of apartments above the store. Still, three days a week, Savas continued to drive into the old neighborhood to work at his bench on Main Street and help his children fulfill their tailoring orders. He had sat just so for nearly half a century, but outside his window, the neighborhood was hard to recognize.
A Cincinnati Enquirer article from December 21, 1983, titled, “Once a Place to Start, Now It’s Only a Place to Survive” shares a joint story of New York Dry Cleaners and Japp’s on Main Street.
“Across Main Street from Savas Andreadis’ old shop, workmen came to cut down the giant pipe that had hung outside Keyers Pipe House for years. Next door, Japp’s Hair Store, which once displayed the finest human-hair wigs, is almost always dark. The bald, alabaster busts shipped over from France during World War I stare vacantly from the antique shop window.
The sidewalks, once scrubbed by shopkeepers, are littered every morning with a fresh accumulation of crumpled paper bags, broken bottles, rags.
Three mornings a week, 86-year-old Savas Andreadis still comes to work. The first thing he does is grab a broom and sweep the sidewalk in front of his shop.”
Sophie and Paul Andreadis, children of Savas and Orea, attending the New York Dry Cleaners' induction into the OTR Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame.
Sophie and Paul ran the family business until 2008. A highlight of their later years included being inducted into the OTR Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame in 2000. Savas died on July 7th, 1997, and Orea died on March 25th, 2005, both at age 100.
In a personal interview with Sophie Andreadis in August 2022, she said she remembers Japp's was "old." She recounted walking into the hair store and looking around at all the accessories and wigs on the first floor. August 26, 2022, is Ms. Sophie's 93rd birthday, so we wish her a very happy birthday!
A sign in the stairwell of 1216 Main reads, "Positively no loafing or drinking in hallway or steps. Owner, Ms. Sophie."