Staff Writer

MAY 16, 2004

The mountain of bricks, weeds, and trash covering a block of Downtown Evansville is symbolic of a complicated situation that keeps the property in disarray.

“It affects my property value for that pile of garbage to be over there on the corner,” said Tresa Miller, who owns Grateful Thread Fabric & Furnishings across the street from the former Pearl Cleaners site. “That’s a front door into Downtown. You come off the Lloyd Expressway off of First Avenue and there you have it – a giant pile of rubble.”

The Building Commission recently cited the property owner and will start a process on May 23 to hire a contractor for a massive cleanup if the owner doesn’t respond. That contract will likely exceed the commission’s annual $200,000 budget for all cleanups.

“We have to put it out for bid and see how much it will cost and then bring that before the mayor to see if there’s any way we can find funds to do it,” said Building Commissioner Johnny McAlister.

The only thing certain about this property is that it no longer is connected to the cleaning business that Amy Michel treasures as a childhood memory. Her family owned and operated Pearl Cleaners until it and the property were sold separately.

Michel said she couldn’t bring herself to visit the site.

“It just makes me sad,” Michel said. “It could have been celebrated better having been in our community for more than 100 years.”

Under new ownership, the laundry company left the site in 2017 and the structure stood vacant until a fire destroyed the building in May 2023. The shell of a structure seemed forgotten until January when someone became trapped in the debris. City officials say it halted its emergency demolition process when the owner’s attorney reached out.

“I got a call from Ryan Schulz, the registered agent for the property,” McAlister said. “He said he was working with a client to get this resolved and then I got a call from Klenck saying they had entered into a contract with this guy.”

Tim Klenck Demolition of Evansville knocked down the walls and then their work stopped. The equipment disappeared and nearly the entire building remains in a pile. In April, Klenck Demolition filed notice that it intends to file a $103,000 lien on the property. Company President Tim Klenck declined to discuss the situation.

The Vanderburgh County Recorder’s Office mailed Klenck’s notice to the address the company provided the Indiana Department of State and the Treasurer’s office. It’s the same West Buena Vista Road address where the building commissioner sent the most recent citation.

This is where the search for the responsible party ends for local government and the situation resembles a collapsed chimney covering piles of brick.

A review of activity surrounding the Downtown property shows local government agencies spent years working in different directions. The City cited the property for code violations. The owner rejected the county’s attempt to purchase the site. The privately operated Evansville Regional Economic Development Corporation is watching closely for possible redevelopment opportunities at the site. E-REP partners closely with the Evansville Improvement District, which includes the blighted site.

“With that particular site we need a cooperative property owner to assist with getting these projects completed,” said E-REP’s Josh Armstrong.

So who is this owner? County records list the owner as The Pearl Development LLC. The West Buena Vista Road address that Pearl Development provided to the Indiana Department of State and local governments isn’t associated with the company, said the owner of the home who answered the door in January.

The attorney for the company on file with the state is Ryan Schulz of Evansville. Schulz didn’t respond to emails sent in January and March or a phone message left in May. His firm, Kahn, Dees, Donovan & Kahn, also provides representation to the Downtown Improvement District.

The Evansville man who answered the door at the house claimed by The Pearl Development bought the house in 2023, more than a year after The Pearl Development LLC was created. He said he doesn’t know anything about the company, and records support him.

There is a name once associated with the West Buena Vista Road home that connects with the Pearl Cleaners site. Eric Morgan was evicted from the property In April 2023. Morgan’s name appears on a document filed in January with the Indiana Department of Environment Management concerning environmental cleanup at the site. The document identifies the owner as: The Pearl Development, LLC c/o Mr. Eric Morgan. Former Pearl Cleaners CEO Bernie Michel said he remembers talking to an “Eric” after the fire. During that interview with the City-County Observer, he called the number where he contacted Morgan after the fire to request bricks from the site. He left a message that Morgan never returned. Phone and email messages left by the City-County Observer also weren’t returned.

That phone number is connected to another corporation linked to Morgan, Rugged Construction LLC, according to Better Business Bureau records. That company also appears on the IDEM reports for the former Pearl Cleaners site. Morgan used the West Buena Vista address for Rugged Cleaners months after his eviction, according to the Indiana Department of State and court records.

A search of state records shows another company connected to Morgan is Liquid Ninja Energy LLC. While the company told the state it occupies a building on Wedeking Avenue, the address it provided is home to an unrelated company. Morgan was CEO of the company when police say he took about $600,000 from investors without telling them he was not registered to sell securities. He was convicted following a plea bargain and ordered in 2017 to serve five years, one in jail and four years of work release.

Shortly after he served that time, Pearl Development paid $75,000 for the Downtown property. There is no evidence of a loan for the purchase, which is usually filed with the county.

City and County officials said they were unaware of Morgan’s connection to the company that controls the blighted property.

Does anyone at E-REP know?

“I do,” Armstrong said when asked if he knows who is behind the single-member LLC.

Would Armstrong confirm the name of the owner if it was provided?

“I don’t know about that, but tell me,” he replied.

The paper trail leads to Eric N. Morgan.

“It is Eric Morgan,” Armstrong said. “So that’s easy enough to find out through the LLC filing.”

FOOTNOTE:  The City-County Observer posted this article without bias.

“The City-County Observer does not promote or condone discrimination of any kind including preference based on race, gender, identity, or political preference.



  1. Why is this site so important……..Just drive all over Evansville and you will see miles of buildings a lot worse off than this………The Decline of Evansville for the last 3 decades……..Without A Doubt…..

  2. Didn’t the fire and the necessary clean up happen under the Winnecke Administration? Another mess left for someone else to take care of. How we have been tricked yet again by the best 12 years.

  3. I use to work there at Pearl laundry when it was owned by the Korb family But haven’t been in touch with them Since 1999! It where I met my future/current Wife! I was working as a maintenance man for Jeff Korb and his father! I thought they owned the building! Ty for your artice!

  4. Jerry Arnett’s statement is right. I worked there for years and years. KORB family owned it. Jeff left the family business and Jeff’s sisters husband to over the running of it. Which was Bernie. He was training his son to work along with him. The screen printing and embroidery business was up stairs .

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