A booth in the corner of a laundry in Leslieville is home to Toronto’s most beloved seamstress, who has been in the business for over a decade.
Queenie Xia Liu, known as just “Queenie” to her customers, has grown to become a bit of a celebrity in the neighborhood.
Since 2009, everyone from all ages and backgrounds has come to visit Queenie’s booth inside the Quick Clean Laundry Center, located near Queen and Pape.
When customers arrive, you hear them exclaim “Hello Queenie!” or “Hello mom!” with an expression of joy in his eyes, as if greeting an old friend.
Queenie is just as excited to see her customers, “they have become my friends, they are like my family,” she says, carefully inspecting every outfit her customers bring.
Queenie says she had no idea how to sew or work with clothes when she immigrated to Canada from China in 1997.
Her first job here was in Scarborough at a curtain company, where the owner taught her to sew and make curtains from scratch.
From there, she continued to have her own business, making curtains out of her home during the day and attending English classes in the evenings.
Then she worked at a dry cleaning company that used to be at Queen and Parliament, this was where she started making clothes changes while also making pillowcases and curtains.
Queenie was only stuck there for three years before moving to the Quick Clean Laundry Center, making it a permanent home for her business.
“Even though it’s a small space, I’m so happy here, I can be self-employed, work on my own, do my own things,” Queenie said.
You can find the seamstress working six days a week, her stand sitting in front of a window facing the main street.
“Sometimes I want to concentrate so much, then people come and knock on the window to say hello and I have a big smile on my face,” Queenie said.
The stand that Queenie works in is a testament to the last twelve years she has spent there. Written notes are dotted around, along with rolls of thread, a spread of sewing needles and several plants hanging from the ceiling.
While it may seem chaotic to outsiders, Queenie knows exactly where everything is at all times.
Tucked under a plastic box is a written list that Queenie collects, with all the names and numbers of her regulars, so she can keep track of everyone.
Queenie is very proud of her company, although she sometimes works long hours, she always gives herself time to train for two hours when she gets home at night.
She says yoga and swimming help her keep her back strong during the hours she works bent over at a sewing machine.
You will never hear Queenie complain about her job. She says that because of the joy her customers bring her, the days she spends at the laundry almost never feel like work.