Customers retrieve clothes from closed dry cleaners

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They didn't get taken to the cleaners after all.

Customers of a shuttered Westbury dry cleaning business whose owner was evicted for nonpayment were able to retrieve most of their clothes Saturday, allaying fears that their garments, from prom gowns and tuxedos to firefighter and police uniforms, were gone for good.

The customers had been trying in vain since Tuesday to retrieve clothes from Moo Wong Lee, owner of Lewis Cleaners, but could not reach him, officials said.

They flooded Nassau officials with complaints before the county won a court order Friday to have the clothes returned to the cleaners from warehouse storage.

On Saturday, more than 100 customers showed up to sort through boxes of clothes at the store with the help of a court-assigned receiver, Uniondale lawyer Chris Coschignano, and workers he hired from Jim Dandy Cleaners.

"I'm so relieved to have my prom dress back," said Ashleigh Simeon, 17, a senior at W.T. Clarke High School in Westbury, who got her $300 dress back in time for the June 21 dance. "We took it here to have it tailored, and paid up front. But when I came back after school, everything was gone and the store was closed down. I was freaking out."

Coschignano said nearly 500 articles of clothing were returned to their owners by midafternoon. He said the court mandated him to collect money from the customers, so he took whatever each thought was fair.

"It's going very smoothly," Coschignano said. "We're trying to make it as positive an experience as possible for people."

Coschignano said the store would open again later this week -- the day has not been determined -- for customers to retrieve remaining items.

"I still haven't found my dress and it's frustrating," said Nancy Keenan of Westbury. "When you drop your clothes off at a dry cleaner, you never expect something like this will happen. But I guess they're making the best of it."

Lee could not be reached for comment.

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