CHICAGO — Taking the road less traveled involves an occasional detour for those one-of-a-kind finds with a tie to coin-ops. With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to consider a laundry-inspired gift for that special someone on your list.
EAU DE LAUNDROMAT
I did a double take at a local Walgreens when I spotted Laundromat as one of the scents on offer in the cosmetics department. But there it was, tastefully displayed alongside others in the Demeter Fragrance Library: Kitten Fur, Jelly Doughnut, New Baby and Swimming Pool.
A spritz-and-sniff delivered a crisp scent evoking memories of a freshly starched shirt more than a Sunday afternoon elbow-to-elbow in the front-loader aisle.
I proceeded to clean out the stock — all six 1-ounce bottles of cologne — and gave them away as door prizes during a recent tour of regional laundry equipment distributor shows. The fragrance got a thumbs-up from gift recipients, although most were skeptical of wearing it as their signature perfume.
Online reviews on the New York-based company’s website mentioned Laundromat smelling “like laundered clothes in the dryer with a lightly scented dryer sheet.” Another wrote she mixed it with another of Demeter’s fragrances, Dirt, to create her own “Dirty Laundry” blend, adding that the customized spray “makes me giggle when people ask what I’m wearing.”
The website also pays homage to the patriarch of the coin-op industry: “J.F. Cantrell, having noticed that personal washing machines are a luxury many of his neighbors cannot afford, opens the first Laundromat in Fort Worth, Texas… At Demeter, we celebrate April 18th as the inspiration for the freshest, cleanest scent we know, our version of Laundromat cologne.”
One of dozens of unique fragrances in the Demeter Fragrance Library, Laundromat is available at select retailers, as well as online. The firm’s website offers Laundromat in 10 sizes, from a half-ounce “Mini Splash” priced at six bucks to a 3.4-ounce cologne spray for $40.
We’ve come a long way since the timeless classic Curious George at the Laundromat offered up a soapy lesson on oversudsing as the mischievous monkey wreaked havoc in the wash aisle. Thirty years on, it’s still a noble cause to familiarize kids with the self-service laundry environment, even if the results are a little chaotic.
Parents can download Levi the Laundry Guy, a free 80-puzzle Android app, and challenge their youngsters to maneuver between washer and dryer loads in as few moves as possible, all while avoiding lasers, vanishing floor tiles and other obstacles.
While everyone’s favorite chimp and The Man with the Yellow Hat will surely be missed, the app does feature Levi and his golden locks or — at the player’s option — his alter ego, “Robot Levi,” traversing the game board in pursuit of a dry load and coveted gold stars.
After completing several rounds, mom and dad may want to have the kids put down the tablet and pull out Curious George before bedtime.
Levi the Laundry Guy is a free Android app available on Google Play.
AIRING YOUR DIRTY LAUNDRY
Inevitably, when a friend or relative happens to catch wind that you’re active in the laundry biz, the stream of questions is bound to follow. Save your breath and gift-wrap a copy of the paperback Feeling Dirty? Life as a Laundromat Owner, a nuts-and-bolts look at coin-op basics from Alabama operator Ken Barrett.
The multi-store owner and LaundromatHowTo.com webmaster offers up an easy 60-page read that will give newbies a taste of laundry life while leaving them yearning for more. His intro opens with a bit of advice: “A Laundromat, like any business, needs customers. If you have the ‘build it and they will come’ attitude, you better have some deep pockets in case they don’t.”
Barrett touches on oft-neglected areas like kids’ play areas, laundry carts, and even the proper placement of electrical outlets to keep customers charged up — topics useful to both novice and veteran.
Intertwined with all the shop talk are Barrett’s recollections of times when the daily routine goes off-script, reminding readers that the human element plays a big role in the self-service interaction between man and machine.
One such story recalls an incident in which he handed his teenage kids some quarters to pay for the wash of a random customer. The gratitude of the store patron for the small gesture took the youngsters by surprise. “They were so amazed at how thankful the lady was for the free washes,” Barrett writes. “Never estimate the difference that a small donation of money or time can make.”
Feeling Dirty? Life as a Laundromat Owner is available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle edition.
Check back Thursday for more laundry-centric gift ideas!