Brooklyn dry cleaner fears financial struggle may shut down business

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ByLucy Yang via WABC logo
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
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Lucy Yang returns to a Brooklyn dry cleaner business one year after they were forced to shut down due to the pandemic.

COLUMBIA WATERFRONT DISTRICT, Brooklyn (WABC) -- At the height of the pandemic, a family-owned cleaning business in Brooklyn chose to make masks for their customers. However, one year later, that same business is struggling to survive financially.

Lily La is scared, and for good reason. Her family business, La Dry Cleaners, is hemorrhaging financially.

"Every day I come here from morning to night, we're lucky we have three customers," La said.

Eyewitness News first reported about this mom-and-pop dry cleaner in Carroll Gardens last April.

Lily and Tom La were forced to shut their store during the pandemic.

The country was gripped in fear and no one could find a mask. So, they took their skills and generous hearts and started sewing free masks for the neighborhood.

Tony and Lily La gave Eyewitness News reporter Lucy Yang a mask when they first met a year ago.

News of their kindness spread. One woman asked for 200 to send to Nigeria.

They made another 400 for the homeless in the Bronx, and 500 for the elderly in Manhattan. They never asked for a penny.

"I'm very happy to do that. No regret it," Lily La.

Now, a year later, Eyewitness News went back to see how they're doing.

Their doors have re-opened, but customers have not really returned.

Most are still not back in the office, which means there's not much clothes to clean. And tailoring is not enough to pay the rent.

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"I've gotten some stuff tailored from them and I still insist on it because those guys are great," one customer said.

After hand making 10,000 masks, Lily La now suffers from carpal tunnel, but she doesn't complain. That's not who they are.

For more than three decades, hard work was their ticket to the American dream. Tony and Lily La thought they could keep the store into their golden years. But the cruel reality is they might not survive past the summer.

"There's a lot of memories, this is my home. Yes. Truly. This is my home," Lily La said.

If you would like to help, you can contribute to the La's GoFundMe page.

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