DRY CLEANERS, East Village

by Kevin Walsh

THE Forgotten NY camera (a Panasonic Lumix) was focused like a laser beam on the SE corner of Avenue A and East 13th Street a few Saturdays ago when I passed this entry in the Cafe Bene franchise (an alternative to Starbucks; not being a coffee drinker, I can’t vouch for the quality). No, I wasn’t trying to catch the gutter shed the taqueria had set up either.

I had noticed the faded sign on the upper left, Dry Cleaners Expert Tailoring. There is an identical sign on the 13th Street side. This qualifies as a ghost sign, since the business it advertised, Kim’s Laundromat & Cleaners, moved out sometime between 2014 and 2016, replaced by the coffee joint. I don’t know if it was illuminated from within or not.

Dry cleaning is not, so to speak, dry. Whatever is being cleaned is soaked in a water-free liquid solvent,¬†tetrachloroethylene¬†(perchloroethylene), known in the industry as “perc”, which is the most widely used solvent. It’s just that they’re not soaked in water, thus, “dry.” In older signs dry cleaning is also referred to as “French cleaning.”

You can see the laundromat in Street View if you set the timer prior to 2014.

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2/14/22

6 comments

chris February 15, 2022 - 9:48 am

I dont know if I would like to live above a dry cleaners unless they
cleaned the clothes off premises

Reply
Peter February 15, 2022 - 8:08 pm

Prior to the 1950’s dry cleaners used highly flammable solvents and as a result did the actual cleaning work in industrial buildings well away from their storefronts. Then the development of much safer solvents allowed them to do on-premises cleaning and customers could get their clothing back more quickly.

Which isn’t to say that recent history has been kind to dry cleaners. People don’t wear as many dry-clean-only clothes as they used to, and it should go without saying that WFH has made things even worse.

Reply
Kevin Walsh February 15, 2022 - 11:58 pm

I used to be so afraid of clothes shrinkage that I would dry clean everything but that got too expensive.

Reply
Sunnysider February 15, 2022 - 3:27 pm

Sounds like a good idea for a new business. Combination coffee shop and dry cleaners. Spill your latte on your pants, we’ve got you covered.

Reply
therealguyfaux February 16, 2022 - 12:20 pm

Perhaps they moved on up to the Upper East Side, like George and Weezy…

Reply
Cindy February 17, 2022 - 12:03 pm

I don’t think they are allowed to use perc anymore.

Reply

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