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L&L Dry Cleaners opened on Covington's Twelfth Street in 1947, was handed down to a second generation in 1977 and then a third generation in 2007 before passing into history Sunday morning as flames engulfed the building around 8:00AM, fully destroying a sixty-five year old business in less than two hours. Covington Police originally responded to the business after hearing of an intrusion alarm but upon arrival saw flames inside. An off-duty Covington firefighter was also among the first to report the flames. At its peak, forty-three firefighters were on the scene dousing the stubborn flames from the front and the back with Covington's department receiving assistance from Newport, Fort Mitchell, Fort Wright, and Ludlow. Those back-up crews were also on call to respond to any other possible fires in Covington.

Two generations of the Landrum family watched from the sidewalk as the L&L's roof collapsed into the building. "I was starting to brag to people that I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, things were starting to look a little better and business is picking up and I got some new customers and everything was going great," said Paul A. Landrum, choking back tears. "Lo and behold, it ain't now."

Landrum rushed from his Bromley home to the scene after initially hearing of the possible break-in. "I got a call this morning about 7:30 and I was wetting my hair down 'cause we were gonna go to breakfast," he said. "I went in and pushed the answering machine and it said the burglar alarm dropped, I'm used to that, it happens down here quite often, used to happen a lot more than it does now. I said, 'OK', told 'em I'd be right back, put my pants on and grabbed my keys and headed down. I got about half way through Ludlow, maybe into West Covington and got a phone call from the burglar alarm company and they said the fire department wanted to know if anyone lived upstairs and I said, No, why? And they said, well we have a working fire and so I started speeing up and and as I looked up I seen black smoke in the sky and I though there's no way that's from there and then the closer I got the more I realized, yeah it was."

It is a sad road bump in a career that started in dry cleaning when Landrum was a child. His father, Paul K. Landrum took over the business from his own father in 1977, and also watched as a family's lifetime of work went up in smoke. Paul K. Landrum explained that his father started the business in 1977 with a man named Lloyd, so the L&L stood for Landrum & Lloyd, but his father bought the man out leaving the Landrums as the sole owners. The youngest Landrum, who raced from Bromley to the scene, explained how he had kept the business alive in a very tough time.

Business went in the trash when Twelfth Street was widened, he explained, but emphasizing the delivery service helped keep the dry cleaners afloat. He said that before the widening, the business was divided up as seventy-five percent walk-in and twenty-five percent delivery. Now those numbers are reversed. "My customers are the greatest customers around, I mean, I've got some of the nicest people, or I should say, I had some of the nicest people," Landrum said. "I hate not knowing what I'm gonna do."
Acting Covington Fire Chief Dan Mathew also responded to the scene admitting that he even had one of his dress uniform shirts inside and that he could see the smoke all the way from the Cut-in-the-Hill on Interstate 75 as he made his way to Twelfth Street. "Fortunately for us, the fire occurred right around our shift change time, so we had firefighters coming on shift and coming off shift to fight the fire," Mathew said. In all, five buildings were affected with the dry cleaners receiving the most damage. Flames spread from there to both neighboring structures causing interior damage to the second and third floors of a vacant apartment building and causing exterior damage to another. A couple other buildings were slightly damaged by firefighting activities.  No one was hurt.

Mathew said that once the roof collapsed into the building fire crews were pulled back and code enforcement officers were headed to the scene to assess the structural integrity of L&L. "The building has the potential to collapse," Mathew said. Traffic was shut down in the immediate on three of the city's busiest streets: Twelfth, Scott Boulevard, and Greenup Street. 

It was in the middle of Twelfth Street, as the flames started to go out, that Paul A. Landrum sat alone in the middle of the road, suffering a nose bleed. He was treated at the scene for what he suspected was his rising blood pressure. He had plans to have the roof painted next week and was at the early stages of redeveloping the building's second floor to turn it into an apartment for his daughter. "I just don't know what I'm gonna do," he said. "Every morning since I graduated high school I got up at 7 o'clock in the morning and I came to work and now, 7 o'clock in the morning I come and sit by work I guess. I don't know. I just don't know."
Written by Michael Monks