This time for the person of interest column, The Beacon caught up with Mary Liu. Mary runs a dyeing and dry cleaning shop at 102 Ripon Street. Now, naturally she wouldn’t disclose her age but after a conversation with her we were convinced that she stopped ageing after 16. And after she dyes your dress for you, you won’t mind dying for her. Here’s why.
Q. How and when did Chinese Expert begin?
A. My father came to Calcutta from China and started the shop in 1946. My mother is an Anglo-Indian and we are 9 brothers and sisters. My parents used to run the shop together and currently this is the only dyeing and dry cleaning shop remaining in Ripon Street.
Q. So tell us your secret, how come you’re still working while the rest of the world is retiring at 55?
A. (Laughs out loud) Well there’s no secret. I adore my work and this shop and right from my school days i have been helping my mom and dad run the business. I love working; my mind doesn’t let me sit down!
Q. What does your family say about it?
A. My brothers always ask me to not take so much stress but i just tell them “you be old, I’ll be young till I die”
Q. You have witnessed Ripon Street change over the years. How do you feel the place is now?
A. Ripon Street has changed a lot but there’s no denying that it is home and it will always be so. The people here are very nice and helpful. When i am in my shop i know nothing can happen to me, they all come forward. Whether they are Muslims, Hindus or Christians, they are all very nice and that’s the charm of this place.
Q. In the era of online retailing and obsequious customer service, how do you cope with the market?
A. Obsequious customer service can never match up to the customer loyalty of an age old legacy. Usually the rule to keep ready for delivery clothes in the shop is 3 months, but I keep them for years at a stretch. There are clothes in the shop which are here for more than 10 years.
My father used to say “when you open a shop, don’t sell off poor people’s coats if they fail to take their clothes within a certain time period. They struggle and make a coat and you sell it for Rs. 50, how much will you eat in that 50? You must keep the sign board going”. So basically we have been employing today’s customer service right from 1946. I even dry clean clothes free of cost for the church. Go tell Flipkart to do that!