Thursday, May 28, 2015

Benny Louie Chinese Laundry


Reader Chris Bandini sends in the sad news about Benny Louie Chinese Laundry on 13th Street near University. The sign outside says they're closing on June 12 because they lost their lease.

Though it's not in my laundry neighborhood, I always liked walking by Benny Louie and seeing their old signage.

We keep losing Chinese laundries, like Chin's, Harry Chong, Lee's, and many more. They're not going out of business. They're not losing customers. They're being denied new leases, or having their rents hiked beyond reach. They're being driven away. And City Hall won't do a thing to #SaveNYC

I don't know how long Benny Louie has been here. From reviews on Yelp, it sounds like two generations. When I went in to ask about the closure, the sad young man at the counter didn't want to talk about it.

One Yelp reviewer who's a regular had this to say:

"Been going to Benny's for ages...when Benny's father used to run the shop. They've been around for so long, and Benny's can't wait till the day he retires and go fishing! But if that were ever to happen, I am sure Cindy will continue to make this place even better."


Scout said...

Back in the 70s, every neighborhood had several of both Chinese laundry businesses and coin laundries - most apartment buildings didn't have laundry facilities inside them back then.

That's all changed - all the new construction includes laundry, either inside the apartment or in the building somewhere.

I remember in 2004, when the last coin laundry in my neighborhood went bust. There were three Chinese laundries left nearby where you could drop off, but not do your own laundry.

Then, by 2012, there was only ONE Chinese laundry left within 15 blocks north and lord-knows-how-many blocks south of my building. And that one laundry could still offer next-day service, somehow.

I think it's a sufficiently interesting symptom of something to merit a place in a study...

Tal Hartsfeld said...

Gentrification appears to be a deliberate, strategic, and malicious social-engineering conspiracy judging by the way this site describes the dilemmas being experienced by these long-standing small businesses.

Prof. Pooley said...

When I finished grad school and first moved to Manhattan in 1988, Benny's was one of the first businesses that I frequented in the neighborhood. When I'm back in the Village, I always gravitate toward the fewer and fewer places that were around back in the day.

I was in Chicago a few weeks ago and noted that many more of the small independent retail stores that I remember from 20 years are still operating and thriving. While I understand the economics connected with the very different real estate markets in the two cities, I feel that New York suffers greatly in comparison.

Greed is a malevolent force. The commercial landlords have stolen the character of my home city. I hope they're enjoying their boats and their golf games.

Pat said...

Cooper Laundry was a self service place that went out of business recently. They were on 1st Avenue near where Ess-A-Bagel was. I heard that they closed abruptly due to a rent increase and shuttered with some people's wash left inside. In this area there are still a few laundries (mostly on the streets) but fewer that allow self service (mostly on the avenues.) Makes it hard for people who like to do their own wash. I guess the tourists just leave their wash outside the hotel room door for pickup and the one percent just buy new clothes.

XXX said...

Benny is 4th generation.
I started going there in the 80's when his father was still around...

John said...

Karavas on 6th ave has closed down.

Jeremiah Moss said...

This is what I learned from speaking with the laundry's co-owner, Bennie Louie's wife, Cindy.

The longtime building owner wants to sell this and two adjacent properties, and is removing all the residential and commercial tenants, including the laundry, a deli, and a dog-care salon. Cindy heard that 25 jobs will be lost--though presumably new jobs will be created by businesses that open in the future. But demolishing the buildings, establishing plans, getting permits, and doing the construction: that will take a few years.

In January the Wall Street Journal observed that this block has "graduated to luxury housing": "Many developers have been busy converting old parking garages and other former commercial buildings into large, multimillion-dollar luxury residential units." According to Curbed NY, some of these large units are selling for upwards of $11 million.

Where's a place for a Chinese laundry in this tsunami of upscale development?

Sharon Zukin, sociologist, CUNY

Unknown said...

This is so sad to see Bennie leave. I started going in 2001 although I am not in NY as often nowadays. Went by the other day to see the entire block along University between 12-13 a large lot. It’s too bad there was no place for him to relocate in the neighborhood. He and his wife were great, nice people offering a needed service.
I used to kid him I’d swim and send fish his way. He’d tell me he would come swim with me like he did as a child in Hong Kong.
He’ll be missed
Bruce Goldberg

Pat said...

Update to my posting on May 30, a laundry did open where Cooper Laundry used to be. I don't know if they allow self service, I go to one nearer to me that opened last year on 26th & Second and do my own wash. Tal Bagels opened where Ess-A-Bagel was and I saw a sign on the east side of First Avenue announcing that Ess-A-Bagel would open there. So maybe there is some hope.

Sad for NYC said...

So, just wondering whether anyone has contact information for Benny and Cindy? They moved to a house in Queens, and according to Cindy, they will still handle dry cleaning and mending businesses out of their new home, but I lost their phone number.

David Louie said...

If anyone would like to get in touch with Benny or Cindy. Please go here