Mr. Chae with Mayor’s dry cleaning; closeup of receipt that says “Mayor Bing”
– Civic awards and Obama campaign posters are proudly on display. [included two photos of awards.
– Terry and Martha Reid stay four blocks north at Seyburn & Mack, and own the daycare around the corner from Kimbrough’s on Kercheval. They have been coming to Kimbrough’s for over 20 years, and come by Friday afternoon for a pick-up. [Terry and Martha at counter with Mr. Chae]
– No one has ever touched Kimbrough’s white-washed wall [Mr. Chae in front of store]
Kimbrough Cleaners doesn’t advertise, and a Google search will net you exactly one review. The storefront is inconspicuous – except that the exposed side exterior, painted in tag-me white, is remarkably free of graffiti.
In fact, driving past the business on Van Dyke in West Village, you might never guess that this is where every Detroit mayor since Coleman A. Young has taken their finest clothes. These days, the Archer family still comes from across town, and Mayor Dave Bing now brings his suits to Kimbrough’s.
Proprietor Chris Chae counts among his clients other well-known Detroit figures such as Bankole Thompson, editor of the Michigan Chronicle, and Bishop Marvin Winans of Perfecting Church. He says that Motown legends Stevie Wonder and Smokie Robinson have also passed through the door.
Chae, who took over Kimbrough’s from its retiring owner in the early 1980s, says his business relies entirely on word of mouth.
“When the film incentives brought Hollywood directors and actors into town,” Mr. Chae says, “they stayed at the Book Cadillac but heard about this cleaners and sent their dry cleaning here.”
Mayor Bing, when asked how he ended up at Kimbrough’s, responded, “When I moved downtown, I asked neighbors and friends to recommend a dry cleaner and Kimbrough’s came highly recommended. Kimbrough’s is a Detroit institution and was recommended time and time again for the excellent service the staff and owners provide their customers.”
Chae is proud of his reputation for customer service and meticulous standards for quality. Asked why his business does so well, he replies simply that he’s the best.
“Did you know they say the dry cleaning industry is second highest in customer complaints?” Chae says. “We can’t make everyone happy but we try.”
“This is a community business.”
Walk into Kimbrough’s and you are greeted by a collage of civic pride: 2008 Obama campaign posters, a large “Proud to be an American” sign, copies of the Detroit Free Press 2003 “Best Cleaner” award, photographs of customers’ children, Spirit of Detroit award letters from City Council Presidents Gill Hill (1990-2001) and Maryann Mahaffey (2001-2005), and a Great Seal of the State of Michigan plaque from State Senator Coleman A. Young II.
The awards recognize not only Kimbrough’s impeccable work, but also their contributions to the community – Chae and his wife volunteer at a nearby soup kitchen, and they have donated cleaning services to King High School and Greater Christ church.
Employee Sheila Holston adds, “I’ve lived in this community all my life, and people from the neighborhood like Mr. Chris because he works in the community, and because of his friendly personality. One time, he even let a client, a dance instructor, teach him a routine right in the lobby. They were really dancing!”
“The people here are really nice,” says Chae, “and you see no one has ever touched my wall. Only once in 25 years, someone threw a rock. West Village has good neighbors. We clean up the yard together, keep an eye out for each other.”
He points to the apartment complex across the street, saying “They watch out for the cleaners at night. This is a community business.”
§ Phone: 313-579-3800
§ Address: 1815 Van Dyke Street, Detroit, MI 48214
Kimbrough Cleaner is the oldest cleaners in Detroit. It offers full-service drycleaning, laundry and alterations. Hours are 7:30-6:30pm MF; 8:30-5:30pm Saturdays.