Fay watched Brentwood Bay grow up around her

Fay and Ed Campbell have been in business 40 years.

Fay Campbell has been keeping things clean for 40 years. She and husband Ed came to Brentwood Bay in 1975 and have been running Fay’s Brentwood Dry Cleaners ever since.

There are three bullet holes inside Fay’s Brentwood Dry Cleaners in Brentwood Bay.

It’s something you might expect to see in a similar business in, say, 1920s New York or Chicago, but not in a small community on the Saanich Peninsula.

In their 40 years in business, Fay and Ed Campbell have seen a lot — including a little gunplay.

The incident occurred close to 20 years ago, says Ed. Someone had tried to break into a pharmacy next door and the police surprised them. A shoot out ensued and three bullets entered the store. Two lodged in a facing wall and a third ricocheted off a piece of machinery and stuck in the ceiling. Luckily, Ed said, no one else was in the building at the time.

Gun-slinging aside, Fay’s Dry Cleaners has grown up with the community, after the couple opened up shop in 1975. Ed was in Brentwood Bay, helping build the Sandown Motel. It was a chance encounter with another dry cleaning business that prompted Ed to call Fay, who was working in Surrey at the time.

“It all started when Ed had a pair of pants he needed cleaned,” Fay recalls. “He didn’t like the service, so he saw a place for rent, we got a loan and we opened.”

Neighbouring business owners figured the couple wouldn’t last long but, as they all had good senses of humour, decided to throw the Campbells a bankruptcy party — right before they opened.

“When the town is that small,” Ed says, “the neighbours wondered how we were going to pay for all the new equipment. Many people felt we weren’t going to last.”

That party, it seems, pushed all of the worry aside and put the Campbells on the right track.

That, and Fay’s attention to detail and actual skill at her job probably played a much larger role.

Good service and quality results are hallmarks at Fay’s Dry Cleaners. She says others have come and gone in the last four decades and they have remained open.

“Business was very good, amazingly, when we first started,” she says.

“It was a struggle, but we survived.”

Ed would work at the store and take on other jobs around the Peninsula to help make ends meet. Eventually, the people began to catch on.

“I just knew what I was doing,” Fay says. “It’s proper pressing and cleaning.”

“She never hurt anyone’s clothes,” Ed adds. “You have to know what you’re doing.”

Over the 40 years in business, the Campbells have seen Brentwood Bay grow from around 3,500 people to almost 11,000.

The motel is long gone, as are some of the customers they had in the early years. Their children and grandchildren, however, keep coming back and Fay says it’s like a big, extended family.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Ed says. “It has been a real nice time here.”

And what’s ahead for the next 40 years?

Fay laughs that she probably won’t be around that long and they are starting to think about their future.

“But Fay might be here still,” says Ed.

“It’s almost impossible, but she’ll certainly want to find out.”

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