‘An Island in a Sea of Demolition’ – Stephan’s Cleaners & Tailoring in Ocean Beach

by on July 26, 2017 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

By South OB Girl

Today, Stephan Oh‘s shop is like an island in the middle of a sea of demolition. He isn’t quite sure why his business was spared when the rest of the lot at Cable and Santa Monica was demolished for the development of the Ocean Beach Plaza.

All he knows is that property owner John Small has always been nice to him. Stephan said Small expressed concern to him that having him move his business for the sake of renovation would hurt the business too much, and he would not have to move.

Small most likely knew just how popular Stephan’s Cleaners & Tailoring is. Stephan has received a Yelp 5 Star Review Award several years in a row. As well as Readers Choice awards. And just last Thursday he received another Yelp Award in the mail, which he proudly showed to me. Stephan says his customers come from all over San Diego and not just OB.

Many people may not know that Stephan had his own shop in Seoul, Korea prior to moving to the U.S. He had a shop designing, tailoring, and selling mink coats. And he traveled the world to fur auctions. The label of the coats was his Korean name, Jung Hwan Oh. He spent 25 years making mink coats. And, yes, Stephan knows fur is a controversial issue these days.

Stephan moved to the U.S. because his son has autism, and he was seeking special education for his son. In San Diego he worked at some other alteration shops and then decided to open his own. When the previous dry cleaners left 1926 Cable St, Stephan moved in and opened his shop. He does alterations as well as shoe repair in addition to dry cleaning. He does a lot of alterations for wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, and suits for grooms. And he has photos on the wall of couples in their suits and dresses which he altered.

While I was chatting with Stephan there was a steady stream of customers. One lady picked up shoes which had been repaired. Then a man dropped off some shirts. Then someone came in to pick up dry-cleaning.

Stephan loves OB and is proud to call it the home of his shop since 2001. He feels the community of OB is like a small country town and very friendly. Some of his customers have become good friends of his.

Sometimes he finds homeless sleeping outside his shop. Sometimes travelers wander in to have their coats or backpacks fixed, and he will usually help them not expecting to be paid. If he has had homeless individuals sleeping outside his shop he will chat with them, make sure they are warm enough, see if they have anywhere they can call home.

Once there was a lady who slept at his shop window every day. He would talk with her and he learned she had a daughter in North Carolina. After many months of sleeping at Stephan’s shop window, she told him she was going to move back with her daughter and had a ticket to fly to North Carolina. Stephan is touched by this story and feels he was a part of helping her make this decision.

Many people probably did not know much about Stephan’s personal story. And locals can now keep him in mind when next in need of some dry cleaning services, shoe repair, or alterations– and they can feel confident that they have one of the best shops in the city to go to.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie July 27, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Thank you for this story. Glad John Small has a heart and is thoughtful.


Pal August 4, 2017 at 2:24 am

Very nice story and I have several articles of clothing that need repair and I will take my business to Stephan Oh‘s, however no one left his shop from the wrecking ball out of the kindness of their heart. Most Dry Cleaners, especially ones that have been around for a long period of time are environmental disaster zones. Back in the day and even today, many dry cleaners use harsh chemicals that leach into the ground underneath their business. Stephan Oh‘s is probably doing things the right way, but whoever came before them probably didn’t. The property owner would have to spend a fortune on environmental cleanup to demo the building and probably determined it just wasn’t worth the cost and effort to gain a relatively small amount of buildable land. I wish they left Stephan Oh‘s standing out of kindness, but unfortunately that’s probably not the case.


rick callejon August 4, 2017 at 8:42 pm

Word is that Jamba Juice and Einstein Bagels will be tenants. We are OB. We are not Temecula. Fight the power!


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