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Death takes prominent community businessmen

Elizabethton was hit hard this week by the death of not only Carter County Mayor Rusty Barnett, but those of retired Elizabethton Fire Chief Michael Shouse and two prominent Elizabethton businessmen, Bill Crawford and Freeman Taylor.
Shouse, 65, was a career fireman and retired as chief. He also served as chairman of the 911 Board. Chief Shouse was well-respected by his firemen as well as other first responders in the community. He was a great example of a servant as well as a leader. He gave his best to the Elizabethton Fire Department and the community.
William “Bill” Crawford and Freeman Taylor were long-time businessmen in the community.
Crawford was the owner of Crawford Drywall, Inc. and had lived in the Elizabethton community for 51 years. In addition to his business, Crawford was a Gideon, a board member for Ralph Sexton Ministries, and was faithful to his church, Valley Forge Free Will Baptist Church.
Taylor was long-time owner-operator of Quik Cleaners and Grady’s Dry Cleaning. He enjoyed visiting with his customers, and knew many of them on a first-name basis. Taylor was a former Scoutmaster and was a member of Moore’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church.
Both men were owners of small, disappearing community businesses. There was a time when Elizabethton had several laundry and dry-cleaning establishments as well as building supply businesses.
Through the years, Taylor and his employees have laundered the apparel of much of the Elizabethton-Carter County community. The dry-cleaning business is a changing business and is not the same when Taylor first began working in the business. For example, churchgoers used to regularly bring in their Sunday best; bankers no longer wear suits and ties. After a boom in garment cleaning in 1980, the demand is not what it used to be. But, Taylor remained a favorite of those who did depend on dry cleaning.
Both, his and Crawford’s businesses were a mom-and-pop business, which more and more are being replaced by chains and big box stores. As a result, these businesses are facing a rapidly changing market that sometimes feel out of control.
Among former laundries in town were the Seven-Hour Laundry, the Jiffy Laundry, Wetzel’s Dry Cleaners, and the Elizabethton Steam Laundry, just to mention some.
And while the shift to “pajama culture” compounded by cheaper clothing and relaxed startup and tech workplace attire has diminished this customer group, it’s
the same with the building supply industry. At one time, there was East Tennessee Supply, Paty’s, and Builder’s Supply. These businesses passed some time ago.
Taylor and Crawford were businesspeople who survived the changing times. They did it by maintaining a relationship with their customers and to those in our community, who still believe in supporting home town businesses. They knew what it meant to be a good neighbor, and to live and work among people who had the same values they did.
Although their businesses will continue to be run by family members, both Taylor and Crawford will long be remembered for their support of the community and their kindness to those who patronized their businesses.
And, although the fire department continues with both old and new firemen, time has a way of bringing lives and service to an end. But, the memories remain.