Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Chinese Laundry in Temple City, Cal.

A rare old neon sign on Las Tunas Drive recalls a former Chinese laundry business in Temple City.  The site was also a dry cleaner, judging from the contemporary sign against the storefront.

Kimball Chinese Laundry operated here in this San Gabriel Valley city long before the population swelled with Asians. [Update:  a reader informed me that he was a customer for 30 years - it changed ownerships several times, in which the last couple of owners were of Korean descent.  The business closed around 2009.]

Today this stretch of Temple City is a bridal gown mecca, dotted by Chinese-owned dress and wedding services with names like I Do Concepts and GP Wedding Shop and Photo Studio.

Add to the business mix a whole bunch of Chinese restaurants, noodle houses, the Japanese-style Ajisen Ramen house, and several tea houses.  The significance of the Kimball Chinese Laundry sign may be lost to unknowing passerbys. 

Kimball Chinese Laundry is from another era of the 20th century, a time when Chinese immigrants had an ethnic niche in the laundering industry throughout the United States.  Chinese hand laundries saw its decline in the 1970s, particularly as permanent press fabrics came into use.  But before its demise, the Chinese man in America endured a great deal of negative stereotyping as a result of the Chinese laundry.