Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

Shopper Client Stories


A community mainstay for 33 years moves to expansive new location on Western Branch Boulevard

by Candance Moore

One of Churchland's most beloved establishments has moved to a spacious location on Western Branch Boulevard, offering the same exceptional service with some modern advancements. Mr. Chi Lee, the owner for 33 years who turned his small business into a local favorite, remains at the helm. Unstoppably dedicated to his many faithful customers, Mr. Lee is leading Churchland Cleaners into a bright future.

"I have third-generation customers who are like my extended family," Mr. Lee says. "That's what I love the most about my business. I want to be here for them. I want Churchland Cleaners to be important to this community for years to come."

Mr. Lee chose Churchland as his community in the late 1980s. His vision was to give his neighbors outstanding service from a local family-owned business just down the street. Seeing the need for a new dry-cleaning service, he opened Churchland Cleaners in 1988.

Always greeting his customers with a warm smile, Mr. Lee is a thoughtful, attentive man who remembers names and pays close attention to details. Every piece of clothing is tagged and scanned in a rigorous process that ensures customers receive the item on schedule as promised-clean, crisp, and handled with care. Although it sounds simple enough, it's an impressive feat to consistently perform in the dry-cleaning business. The reliability of Churchland Cleaners is what had made it so successful.

The shop handles just about any kind of laundry and dry cleaning need: business, casual, formals, wedding gowns, leather, suede, fancy and delicate garments, drapes, and linens. After cleaning, items are carefully inspected before they move to the next step. Then comes pressing using the latest technology for a good-as-new look that can't quite be achieved at home. Finished items are folded and hung for the perfect preservation of creases.

Then there's Daisy, a seamstress of 30-plus years who performs on-site alterations. She has her own corner of the shop, decked out in a rainbow of colored threads, with an extensive collection of tools at her disposal. She can easily take up the hem of a skirt, alter a business suit or let out a favorite dress. Quick to smile and easy to approach, Daisy is a delight to do business with.

Churchland Cleaners clicked along for years, building an enthusiastic customer base. Mr. Lee watched his customers' lives progress through the items they bring in for cleaning, taking note of when ballet skirts switched to prom dresses, which gave way to wedding gowns, and later, maternity wear. Taking an interest in the story behind these mementos, Mr. Lee could often be found chatting with customers at the drop-off counter. Before he knew it, he was getting party invitations.

"I've been involved in the lives of some customers since their childhood," he says with a warm smile. "When you see someone routinely and learn about their family life, that's a friendship. Now I'm cleaning clothes for their children. These families depend on me. That makes me happy."

"I've been involved
in the lives of some customers
 since their childhood…
Now I'm cleaning clothes
for their children.
These families depend on me.
That makes me happy."
-Chi Lee

All was going well until the spring of 2020, when Churchland Cleaners faced the biggest challenge to face businesses in over a century: the COVID pandemic. While many industries were initially shut down, dry cleaners were designated as essential businesses. To better serve the community, Mr. Lee wasted no time implementing measures to keep his customers and employees safe. He began using special disinfectant solutions to kill infectious viruses. Extra work was put into sanitizing what was already a spotless interior. And to serve the broader community, Churchland Cleaners donated thousands of clean, durable masks to families throughout Churchland, Western Branch, and the surrounding areas

Despite these precautions, for a while, customers came less frequently. Masked quiet faces, fearful in public, slipped in and out with minimal chatting. The cleaners work continued, but the social aspect-what Mr. Lee lived for-evaporated. The pandemic's ripple effect soon shook commercial real estate. For a moment, Mr. Lee wondered if he should retire. Then he pondered an inspiring quote from Spinoza: "Even if the world ends tomorrow, I will plant an apple tree today." With fresh determination, Mr. Lee found a new location for his shop, just a half-mile east away on Western Branch Boulevard.

A spacious building that in a previous incarnation had served as a pancake house has been beautifully redesigned. With its brick exterior now painted a pristine white and three walls of new windows that allow natural light to flood its interior, Churchland Cleaners' new location is open, sunny, and welcoming. Mr. Lee is usually found at the front desk, greeting customers with the same smile and warmth that area residents have long come to expect. Seamstress Daisy, Manager
Calvin, and the rest of the crew have quickly made the new space their own.

It is now a sunny weekday in Churchland as dozens of customers stop in at the shop. Most bring items for cleaning, but some just want to say hello. The staff is used to that. A woman with a bubbly personality attends the counter. She's quick on the computer and knowledgeable on the process, exuding a confidence that puts her customers at ease. Mr. Lee shows off an advanced computer system that locates orders with precision. Stations are run by experienced, quick-as-lightning workers who keep up with the shop's high demand. Clothes are tracked and processed through highly sanitary conditions, arriving in plastic pickup bags to await their delighted owners.
Day after day, one customer at a time, Mr. Lee provides this valuable service. The hundreds of pickup bags hanging in his shop at any given moment are a testament to how many of his neighbors trust him.

"Their trust and friendship are the reason I'm still here," Mr. Lee says. "I don't know what the future will bring to this community, but I hope that  Churchland Cleaners will be a part of it."

Churchland Cleaners

Western Branch Blvd.
Chesapeake, VA 23321

757-484-5088/537-1008 (Cell)