City Beat

July 15, 2014

Mercury Cleaners saved, will move across 16th Street

The family-owned shop with the recognizable sign on 16th Street was going to have to close after state officials found contaminated soil and groundwater at the site. But a group of lawyers and environmental consultants helped Helen and Tom Kang, the couple who has owned the store for 20 years, negotiate a lease in a new shop across the street.

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Mercury Cleaners, the midtown dry cleaner with a long list of loyal customers, has been rescued.

The family-owned shop with the recognizable sign on 16th Street was in trouble this spring after state officials found contaminated soil and groundwater at the site. Helen and Tom Kang, the couple who have owned the store for 20 years, were told they had just weeks to close.

After reading about the Kangs’ ordeal in The Sacramento Bee, a group of lawyers and environmental consultants represented the family for free and helped negotiate a lease in a new shop across the street from Mercury’s current location.

State officials have also helped. The Capitol Area Development Authority, which overseas many properties on that stretch of 16th Street, gave the family a break on their rent at the current site. The development agency has also offered to restore the Mercury Cleaners sign and move it to the new shop across 16th Street, in the newly built Legado de Ravel complex.

Standing behind the counter of her shop this morning, Helen Kang fought back tears as she talked about all the people who helped her. She has been working 12 hours a day, six days a week while dealing with the news that her shop had to close. Her husband, Tom, was badly injured in an automobile accident earlier this year, but is now moving around, she said.

“I’m so happy. I’m so lucky,” she said.

Mercury could be in its new shop by the end of August or early September. The Kangs will operate a drop-off and pickup store at the site and are looking for an off-site location where they can dry clean customers’ clothing.

Attorneys Stephen Meyer, Anthony Arostegui and Steven Goldberg from law firm Downey Brand, and Joe Niland of environmental consultant group Geosyntec, worked pro bono for the Kangs in negotiating the new lease and working through a complex web of state environmental regulations. The developers of the Legado de Ravel, led by Scott Rasmussen, are working to get the new shop ready by next month, Meyer said.

Meyer, a long-time Mercury customer, said the key to the effort was buying the Kangs more time.

“I think after everybody looked at the situation; we all realized there weren’t any immediate problems (posed by the Kangs’ shop),” he said. “The state understood our concern. Once you got everybody together, everyone agreed we all wanted to see the Kangs succeed. No one wants them to go out of business.”

Wendy Saunders, CADA’s director, said the new arrangement is “a good outcome.”

“They are such fine people,” she said of the Kangs.

Helen Kang said many of her customers want to throw her a party when the move to the new shop is completed.

“I have so many great customers,” Helen Kang said. “I love my downtown shop. I’m very proud.”

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