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U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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Sewn together: Ki Kim and Yang Kim

The couple behind Vogue Cleaners charms customers
A+RAW+WORKSHOP.+Ki+and+Yang+Kim+have+owned+and+operated+Vogue+Cleaners+since+its+opening+in+1995%2C+serving+an+array+of+Hyde+Parkers+and+students+alike.+Despite+meeting+through+an+arranged+marriage%2C+their+time+together+has+only+strengthened+their+bond+as+they+work+alongside+each+other+day+after+day.+%0A
Elspeth LaCroix-Birdthistle
A RAW WORKSHOP. Ki and Yang Kim have owned and operated Vogue Cleaners since its opening in 1995, serving an array of Hyde Parkers and students alike. Despite meeting through an arranged marriage, their time together has only strengthened their bond as they work alongside each other day after day.

The little storefront on 57th Street between South Harper and South Blackstone Avenues, with its faded maroon awning and windows covered by posters, doesn’t stand out much. Yet, walking into the shop, you are met with a unique scene: the crescendo of classical music, the pleasant smell of fresh laundry, and garment conveyors whirring crisp, ironed clothing in garment bags around the store. 

A bell rings as two clients walk in, yet before they can say a word, from the curtained depths of clothing Ki Kim emerges with their belongings in hand. Pleasant smiles are exchanged, and the customers are on their way, sharing looks of pleasant surprise.

A gem to the Hyde Park community, Vogue Cleaners, the dry cleaning, sewing and alterations store, is known by locals and university students alike for speedy yet thorough work. 

The charming shop has been open since 1995, serving generations of families. The business, owned by Mr. Ki Kim and his wife, Yang Kim, holds memories of not just their hard work but their dedication to each other over the years.

They met through Mrs. Kim’s brother, who had met Mr. Kim when he had first moved to Chicago, and after receiving her father’s approval, they had an arranged marriage in 1981. Mrs. Kim’s father founded a sewing company in Korea, and she and Mr. Kim have been in the retail business since moving to the United States. 

“We lived in Chicago but not always Hyde Park,” Mrs. Kim said. “He had a hardware store by the Midway Airport, in Cicero, and we lived around that area, across from the store. We always try to live near our business. That way we can do better and don’t have to drive back and forth.”

They currently live just around the corner from the store. Before moving to their current townhouse, they lived on Harper Avenue, just across the street from Judith McCue. Mrs. McCue is a friend and customer, refusing to go anywhere else for cleaning services. 

“They are first-generation immigrants, and I think they’re exceptional in the way they haven’t just moved to another country, become American citizens and opened up a business; They have knitted into a community in a way that few first-generation immigrants are able to do,” Mrs. McCue said. “It’s a very hard thing to do, but they’re extraordinary in how they’ve done that.”

In addition to making friends and building connections around Hyde Park, their days are spent enjoying home-cooked meals together, working alongside each other in the store from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and pursuing their hobbies.

“At some points, it’s like live together, always work together, all day long,” Mrs. Kim said. “We are kind of… How can I explain? We know each other better and have almost the same idea for this service and the community.”

Despite all of their time spent together both at work and at home, they find time to indulge in their respective hobbies.

“I’ve been singing with the university chorus for a long time. I have kind of eye problems so I’ve stopped doing it right now, though,” Mrs. Kim said. “He loves cello music, and my kids play the instruments, so just before the pandemic I started cello lessons.”

In addition to her interest in music, Mrs. Kim enjoys cooking Korean dishes, as she and Mr. Kim always try to eat a home-cooked meal. Mr. Kim loves to read and is known for playing classical music in the store. Yet the job, with its long hours and requirements for social interaction, takes away from time to enjoy these pursuits. 

“It’s hard to have a hobby with this kind of business,” Mr. Kim said. “It’s almost required, six days a week, 7 to 6. It’s hard.”

They rarely have time to visit family. They have a daughter and a son, both adults who’ve moved out of the house, and family back home in South Korea, whom they hardly see.

“I haven’t been to Korea, because with a small business like this, it’s hard to get away,” Mrs. Kim said. “My sisters are still there, two sisters, but one passed away, so sometime around 2019, I visited after 30 years of not being in Korea.”

While they don’t plan on moving back anytime soon, they hope to either take a year off to live close to their daughter and her family in New York City or wait until retirement to explore the world. 

“We haven’t been traveling for how many years? I mean, we work, work, work,” Mrs. Kim said. “We want to see different countries, not just Korea, but we want to go to see European countries.”

With the constraints of such a pivotal job to the Hyde Park community, it’s hard to get away. Yet, they still want to travel sometime soon, even if in state. 

From behind the pin cushion and fabric-covered counter, Mr. Kim exclaims that he especially hopes for one specific destination: “We want to go to Disney World!”

He and Mrs. Kim exchange laughter, and a glance extends for a moment longer. Despite always being around each other, their connection seems to have lasted over the years, even their inside jokes.

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About the Contributors
Skye Freeman
Skye Freeman, Audience Engagement Manager
Skye Freeman is a member of the Class of 2025 and is an audience engagement manager. She joined the journalism team during the 2022-23 school year when she was a sophomore. Her favorite piece she has written for the Midway is her story on the U-High drama teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Ambrosini: “Love that Lasts: U-High theater teachers married for over 50 years flawlessly execute show after show.” Outside of journalism, she enjoys playing Badminton and is vice president of the Students with Disabilities Association and of the Junior States of America club.
Elspeth LaCroix-Birdthistle
Elspeth LaCroix-Birdthistle is a beginning photojournalist and a member of the Class of 2026. Elspeth's favorite part of photojournalism is taking photos of school events and being a part of the behind-the-scenes of the Midway and other school-related activities. Outside of school, Elspeth enjoys reading and dancing. She is also a member of the varsity girls soccer team.

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