Joseph Lee graduated from Rutgers University as a communications major. The financial crisis of 2008 made jobs scarce. Joseph was lucky that his father, Albert Lee, had the well-established J’s Cleaners dry cleaning business with multiple stores in Manhattan. “He said he could use some help. At first, it was a family obligation. And now, I’m still here,” says Joseph, who seems interested and challenged by the ever-growing business that recently opened a branch in an Apthorp storefront.
He says his father always looks for new business opportunities. Among many downsides of the Covid period, one positive effect was that some landlords lowered rents. “He was able to afford this place which would not have been possible in the past,” Joseph explains, talking about the newest location in the Apthorp at 2211 Broadway, bet. 78th-79th Streets.
He says, the elegant simplicity of the shop is all thanks to his father’s skill at defining just the atmosphere he wants to convey.
With the addition of the new shop, the Lee’s have 11 drop-off locations. Clothes, rugs, linens, and other items that need to be cleaned are transported to the Lee’s facility in Queens which boasts the latest in efficient effective dry cleaning technology.
Joseph’s father was born in Korea, and moved to Argentina. He married there and came to the US with his young family 30 years ago. True today as much as it was in 1985 when he opened his first cleaners, establishing a new store and connecting with new customers depends heavily on forging trust. “They bring you garments they care about and have to trust that you consistently do a good job on time,” says Joseph.
A tip he offers to all is that, “time is the worst enemy” as stained clothes should be cleaned as soon as possible. “Mustard is especially hard to get out.”
Reflecting on the struggle it took to come back from an 80 percent decline in business, Joseph noted that among other successful initiatives J’s Cleaners promoted the deep cleaning of outerwear.
How are you taking care of your contaminated outerwear? The question is relevant even as Covid seems more under control, and is posted on J’s Cleaners’ website: it is applicable to anyone who rubs shoulders with anyone, particularly in crowds.
“There were so many uncertainties about everything to do with transmitting the virus, keeping things clean has no downside. And, cleaning is what we do.”