The way the Fuse Family of Brooklyn, NY have run their dry cleaning and tailoring business at Tina’s Dry Cleaners in Ditmas Park for the last 12 years is a testament to how Unification values can touch peoples’ hearts. Through their unwavering service and love for their customers, as well as their humility and grace amid life’s changes, the Fuses demonstrate the true spirit of what it means to be Tribal Messiahs. We wish them the best of luck as they navigate the challenge ahead.
The following article was originally published by Carly Miller on the Ditmas Park Corner website. You can read the original article here.
Husband and wife team Shinji and Eunsuk Fuse have been running Tina’s Dry Cleaners, at 1315 Foster Avenue, for 12 years. Shinji, originally from Japan, moved to Westminster Road as a missionary for the Unification Church. “Then we started the family, and we have to support the family,” he said.
Together, they built a loyal customer base and are raising three children around the corner from the shop. But in May, the building, which includes 2 residential units and the commercial storefront, was bought by Jonathan A. Banks As. for $1.3 million, according to Property Shark.
“[The new owner] has different ideas for this premises. He said he wants to raise the rent to $5000 a month,” Shinji said. Customers noticed ‘Going out of business’ signs on the window, and Shinji confirmed that they’re leaving the storefront by end of July. But despite being priced out, Shinji doesn’t seem angry. “The building is priced high, and building owners have to pay the mortgage — that part I understand,” he said.
The Fuses want to stay in Ditmas Park, and they’re looking for a new location to continue serving the community, who have been upset by the news. “Luckily, my customers are giving us some tips on new locations,” he said. But Shinji has been reeling from sticker-shock. “This neighborhood is a bit crazy now. I just checked the corner of Marlborough [Road] and the owner is asking $7,000 a month.”
Shinji only started noticing the demographic changing over the past two or three years. “I started to see more younger generations moving in and local businesses going out,” he said. “Mainly in Newkirk Plaza and Coney Island Avenue. Come and go, come and go,” he said.
Despite the uncertain future, the couple seemed to be in high spirits, and hard at work, when I stopped by on a Wednesday afternoon.
Eunsuk, who is originally from Korea, is the on-site tailor. She learned sewing in Korea, and then got extra training from the previous tenants of 1315 Foster Avenue — also a dry cleaning and tailor shop.
When I asked Shinji how he met his wife, he said, “we had a mass wedding, so I never met her before the blessing. She was in Korea, I was doing a mission in the U.S. So we met from a picture!”
When they moved to the neighborhood 12 years ago, Eunsuk took their dry cleaning to this storefront. The previous owner was also Korean, so it was a relief to talk to each other, Shinji told me.
When the store went on sale, Eunsuk had an in. “Being a missionary is totally selfless, so whatever comes in, I had to take it,” Shinji said. “That’s the kind of life it is. So when my wife wanted the business, I took a look inside, and said ‘Okay let’s do it.’”
Now, Shinji and Eunsuk share a business, a home, and three children — which Shinji says is a challenging and a great blessing. The Fuse’s three children are seven, ten, and thirteen.
Looking up from her sewing machine, Eunsuk spoke effusively about Ditmas Park. “People here are so kind and customers are very loyal,” she said. “Everyone knows everyone.” As a parent, she especially appreciates the area’s diversity and safety. Their kids attend PS 217 (and the eldest walks to middle school nearby), and Eunsuk likes how many nationalities and religions are represented at the school.
Both parents also like that their kids can play outside around the store. “Kids are kids, they are flying around and playing around, they don’t have as many worries. That’s the beauty of being a kid,” said Shinji.
Shinji loves the challenge of fulfilling every customer request. “Knowing that we did the right job, then customers give us good comments, that makes me happy,” he said.
His hardest projects are stain removals. “The nature of the stain has to be identified,” he said, “is it water based, oil based, how old it is? If it’s too deep in the fabric, removing it will damage the material, but mostly my factory guys can get it out — for ink, lipstick, blood, they have different techniques using chemicals.” Luckily, he’s not afraid to share his stain removal secrets.
But he knows that at its heart, business is really about customer service. “For all dry cleaners the process is pretty much the same: the chemicals and the machines they use,” he said. “I think — and this applies to all professional work — it depends how much you can pay attention to the details. Customers request many different things, and I try to meet each request. That’s what really makes a difference.”
And it makes a difference in the neighborhood. Longtime Ditmas resident Deborah Huntington, who wrote to us about the closure, said “I’ve been going to Tina’s cleaners for years, and the folks that own the store are honest hard-working and caring individuals. It’s very sad to me that they’re facing this terrible situation after all the hard work and excellent customer service they’ve given.”
When talking about the future, Shinji switched effortlessly between stoic in one moment, and then joking in the next, buoyed by an unwavering resilience. “If we can’t find any new location, we’ll start something different,” he told me.
Shinji and Eunsuk want to thank the community for their support over the last 12 years. “I’m really speechless, without their support I cannot exist. We’ve had people coming to us for over 10 years. Some customers have been really upset to see us go, and I’m really try to find a new location for them.”
Given that this storefront came to them almost by chance, we hope more good surprises are just around the corner for the Fuse family.
Shinji and Eunsuk Fuse are looking for a new location for their business within Ditmas Park. If you know of any available commercial spaces, please call them at 718-859-4828.