Fong’s Dry Cleaning is not going out of business after all — now that Eric Moy, the founder’s son, has
survived a life-threatening health scare and is taking over.
Eric said in an interview that he will now run the family business with the help of his parents
after recovering from an illness that doctors told him he would not survive. Fongs has been a fixture
of downtown Rye since 1969.
Eric said doctors told him they would not be able to resolve a blood disorder that was affecting his
lower legs. “I was sent home and told to say goodbye to my wife and kids,” he said.
But after Eric had done just that, the doctors changed their conclusion, saying new antibiotics had
affected his blood work and led them to mistakenly conclude he would not survive.
Eric was in the hospital when his parents announced they were retiring and closing the business. But
after Eric had recovered, he talked to his parents about staying open.
“I said, ‘Dad, it’s not like our business is dying, we still have a good business,’” Eric recalled.
He’s enthusiastic now about continuing the family tradition. “While this chapter ends, a new one
begins,” he said.
It’s unclear if Fongs will remain at 36 Elm Place, because the family is planning to sell the building
there. But Eric said they plan to stay in Rye.
“Our legacy and name belong in Rye,” he said, adding he and his family are very grateful to the Rye
community for its warm support.
Sam Moy had previously said the business would shut its doors at the end of February. “I still want to
retire,” he told the Record. “I have been working for 55 years. I’m 75 now. Many of my
customers know Eric and I will help out whenever I can.”
At one point, Rye was home to seven dry cleaners, all of them bustling six days a week. In the day,
Gruber’s was the place to go to have formal attire cleaned and wedding dresses boxed. Fong’s was
where many dropped off everything else. And it was the place where you’d linger to talk to owner
Sam Moy about business and the hot-button downtown issues. Fong’s was a hometown hub. You
ran into people you knew every time and often continued your conversations all the way down Elm
Place, where Fong’s has been the anchor since 1969.
Right after the Christmas holidays, Sam and his wife Lili made the decision that it was time to retire.
It wasn’t the first time they’d contemplated the prospect, but they knew it was the right time to hang
up their laundry presses. Longtime customers kept stopping by to ask if Feb. 29 was really the last
day. More than a few tears have been shed and hugs offered.
It was Sam’s sister’s husband, Tim Fong, who first got the family into the dry-cleaning business. In
1956, he and a partner opened a shop in Greenwich. The partners didn’t get along and, within a
year, Fong sold the business to Sam’s father, See Ngum Moy, who kept the name but moved to rented space on Purdy Avenue, where Sunrise Pizza is today.
In 1968, Sam graduated from Rye High School, and a few months later, went to Hong Kong to marry
Lili, whom he had known for years. Sam’s father had plans, too. He wanted to ensure a long life for
the business, so he bought a building on Elm Place and refurbished it. The day Fong’s reopened, Jan. 2,
1969, Sam’s father asked him to take the reins.
It’s a decision Sam has never regretted. “Lili and I raised our three sons in Rye, first on Purchase
Street, then Davis Avenue, and finally on Boxwood Lane. She has worked alongside me, as has
Eric. We’ve watched generations grow up and come back to Rye,” he said in a long, free-flowing conversation in the back of the shop this week. “I have great tenants, Peter Gabow, a dentist, has been with me the longest. I’m fond of him, so fond that I’ve never raised his rent!” he said with a smile. Sam has been glad to see Rye Reads Learning Center, which hasn’t been his tenant long, become a thriving
Lili is the lucky one — she typically arrives to work at 9 a.m. Sam is always the first one there — at
6:30 a.m. sharp, to turn on the boiler — and the last one to leave. He enjoys the half-hour he has to
himself before the crew, and the commuters, arrive.
Sam is a modest man, but he is proud to share that he never closed one day during the pandemic.
He gets a little triste telling you how busy he was before the pandemic.
He is pleased to report that he has found jobs for four of his longtime helpers and is donating his
equipment to friends in the business.
Lili and Sam are looking forward to taking life a little easier. “Now, we can go visit our children and
grandchildren in Tennessee and Arizona,” Lili said brightly. They also will be able to serve more often
at their temple in Chinatown. Lili has been cooking for those in need there, especially the elderly, for
years. Over the last year, Sam and Lili have stood on New York City sidewalks raising money for
victims of the Maui fires.
Is Sam going to be restless in retirement? “Well, I may help a friend who has a business….”