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Be the Center of the Community (Part 1)

Ways to serve customers including and beyond the laundry

CHICAGO — You can say your self-service laundry is a “community service,” just by virtue of providing the means for your neighbors to clean their clothes. But there are ways it can offer customers greater assistance in areas involving laundry and beyond.

Here’s a brief look at a handful of laundry business owners whose service-minded attitude bring them to the center of their local community.

LAUNDRY LIST OF PROGRAMS

Make sure you have some time available when you ask Elizabeth Wilson, owner of SUDS Laundry in downtown Memphis, about her store’s community projects. It’s quite a list! The full-service business is home to library and reading programs, free laundry times and vouchers, a laundry assistance fund, free pictures during Christmas and Easter, free lunches, and special clothing donations and cleaning.

“When we bought the laundromat three years ago, I had zero idea how community-involved we would become through it,” says Wilson. “I started working shifts with my staff to learn the business and it was through that I saw the need for something for the kids to do while they were waiting with their parents.”

For the literacy efforts, Wilson partnered with local non-profit Porter-Leach, which donated supplies for a “Kids’ Corner” and continues to supply SUDS with new books. Still more books and bookcases were donated by neighbors.

Almost all of the funding for free laundry times and vouchers have come through generous neighbors or churches. Holiday pictures are through the generosity of a local photographer and neighborhood Santa. SUDS has also fundraised by using profits from vending machines and social media efforts.

“While all of this requires time and focus for me, I absolutely love getting to use my business this way!” Wilson exclaims.

PURPOSE-DRIVEN

Christy Moore, MSW, is founder and owner of Social Spin, a 3,000-square-foot “purpose-driven” laundromat in Mesa, Ariz. It offers self-service, wash-dry-fold (WDF) and pickup and delivery in addition to its customer-driven community programming.

Moore, a social worker, says Social Spin intentionally and strategically connects communities.

“Through our floor-to-ceiling chalkboard installation, customers communicate what conversations they would like to hold in their neighborhood laundromat,” she says. “Topics range from job-seeking advice, to affordable child care, to environmentally friendly laundry products. We invite community partners to have these conversations with our customers, and plan specialized events around them.”

Partners have registered customers for COVID vaccines, enrolled children in early education programs, provided healthcare check-ups and referrals, taught music classes, referred families to affordable housing, tested for HIV/AIDS and supported immigration applications.

Weekly, Social Spin provides free laundry to any neighbor in need and cultivates a “sharing environment” that includes a community refrigerator, clothing rack and little library.

“Our team of empathetic laundry lovers is our biggest asset,” says Moore. “They enjoy connecting our customers to care and being a safe and trusted space for neighbors. We receive substantial support from our community, including cash support, clothing and food donations, as well as volunteer manpower.”

NOTARY PUBLIC

David Rebolloso owns and operates the North Tryon Laundromat in Charlotte, N.C. His 3,600-square-foot store is attended 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and offers a robust WDF service and some pickup and delivery in addition to self-service.

He’s retired from the U.S. Air Force and 30 years in healthcare. He’s been a notary public for 20 years from working in a hospital, so he thought it would be a good service to offer when he opened his laundry business. Many of his customers are Spanish-speaking.

“Being bilingual has served me very well in this business, and I have done a lot of social interventions,” he says. “A large majority of my customers are from Latin America and interestingly, and humorously, a lawyer/attorney are also known as notaries, which I definitely am not. Nonetheless, customers approach me for advice or general questions.”

As a notary, Rebolloso handles car titles, affidavits, employment verification letters and power of attorney letters among other documents.

Additionally, Rebolloso has worked with attorneys in workers’ compensation for construction worker injuries, mostly as an interpreter and translator: “Right now, I have a laundromat customer that got injured on the job, wound up paraplegic and have been working with his attorney for the past year to get him workers’ compensation.”

While Rebolloso has worked with some non-profits in the past, he’s currently receiving no assistance from outside organizations. As far as resources needed to offer and manage these activities, it’s more time from his schedule.

“If you change your perspective from just being a business to a service, and refocus, it can actually be very gratifying and add purpose to your life,” he says.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!