Wandering around the streets of Greenwich, I stumbled upon a local tea shop, Bosie. I reached for the glass door, and my eyes were greeted by glittering golden tea tins around me. Immediately, the relaxed atmosphere engulfed me.
The employees laugh, and playfully push each other like siblings would, bringing an unexpected smile to my face. As I took a seat at the counter, sweet fragrances of rose, strawberry, and honey filled the air around me.
I was quickly greeted by two young girls - a giggly, redhead by the name of Kara and a California native, Tiffany. Kara is the newly hired manager of the tea shop, although she has been working here for over a year. She grew up in central Florida, and graduated school with a degree in economics. Moving up in the tea shop was actually quite unintentional for her, but she adores the city, her co-workers, and especially Greenwich. As we talked about living in New York City, Kara pointed out that she definitely has to hold her own here wherever she goes. She warned me that “people will just put themselves out there - but [she’s] getting used to it,” which, frankly, just comes with living in Manhattan.
The shop is continually filled with locals of the Village, who come once or twice a week, the most popular times being breakfast or around 4 pm. An employee I got to talking with, Tiffany, told me they are busy almost everyday, but they get to know their customers and each other really well. One of their regulars, Mary, comes to Bosie once or twice a week to get her breakfast, two chocolate chip brownies.
Squeezed in amongst the trendiest cafés of Greenwich Village, Minnie Hyun’s Family
Dry Cleaners has served the people (tourists and natives alike) for close to 30 years. Clothed in the diverse garments of the neighborhood, with the smell of burnt fabric
permeating throughout the space, and the photos of past family events plastered over any spare wall space, this little hole-in-the-wall store feels more like a commercialized home laundry room than a thriving business. The air thick with heat, it is clear that New Yorkers must not come to this less than glamorous establishment for the thrill of it. No, surely there must be something else, something else drawing them towards the unique family style business of Minnie Hyun.
Arriving in New York from Korea in 1974, Minnie Hyun established her local dry cleaners on Bleecker Street in an effort “to support her (then) new family” says Hyun. Hyun knew that competition amongst Korean dry cleaners was fierce, and says that she “decided at the beginning that [she] needed something different to make people choose her over the dry cleaners across the street with the nicer building”. Hyun states, “When I came, every business was a family business, but many people hid that to be seen as more professional and did so to kind of prove that they were serious, and I knew that I couldn't compete with the wealthier competitors, so I decided to embrace my family life, and kind of encourage a family-like community amongst my clients”. With both her daughters working at the store whenever they can, Hyun hopes to eventually pass down the business to them, and establish a long last family legacy in her business.
As time goes on, culture changes and progresses. Because of this concept, the atmosphere and community of Greenwich village has changed dramatically over the past 15 years especially.
“Even my most loyal clients have been moving out of the neighborhood because its getting so expensive” says Hyun. “These new young people with all of this money don’t care about local and family business’ anymore, they want the new flashy stuff and I simply can’t compete with that” she continued.
Hyun went on to explain that her current clients are mostly between the ages of 60-80 years old, and that any younger clients are predominantly tourists.
“It’s hard seeing what was once a flourishing community become nothing but a destination for tourists, and its horrible to see other family business owners be put out of business, but I’m just thankful to still be here”, Hyun concluded.
While in the store, I observed two customers, one young, and one old. The younger explained to me that she was a tourist staying with some friends a few blocks away and had never been there before. The older however, walked into the store and immediately greeted Minnie Hyun with a huge embrace and spoke with her in Korean for several minutes. This interaction alone shows me that although the culture of community amongst neighborhoods in New York City is changing rapidly, community will always be present. New York City was built upon relationships of community, and will continue to grow as a city of diverse culture and community, no matter how the ways in which this culture is represented change.
By Madeline Chadban