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Bringing a Laundromat-Cafe Vision to Life (Part 1)

Owner Swissa partners with Western State Design on project

EVERETT, Wash. — When someone enters Bims Laundry Cafe, they’re struck by an attractive interior featuring modern décor and lighting, along with comfortable tables and chairs. They’re greeted by the smell of coffee and fresh-baked falafel, which may make them feel like they’re in a trendy coffee shop/cafe.

But the walls of gleaming commercial laundry equipment visible beyond the front section of the store make it clear that this is no ordinary cafe. It’s also a state-of-the-art Laundromat.

Owner David Swissa envisioned creating a warm and welcoming space that would not only provide an essential service but also function as a community gathering place. He turned to laundry specialist Rick Hall and his team at Western State Design to help make it a reality.

VISIONS OF A GATHERING SPOT

Swissa’s brainchild didn’t pop into his head out of the blue. Some years ago, he ran a quirky neighborhood cafe on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He eventually gave up the restaurant for a more lucrative career as a management consultant but never forgot that gathering spot. Travels overseas to Copenhagen and Brussels, where such establishments are common, also influenced his vision.

After a long globe-trotting career, Swissa decided it was time to slow down a bit and spend more time with his family closer to home. He wasn’t ready to retire yet, so he cast about for appealing small-business ideas that would generate a reliable income. He quickly seized on the idea of opening a Laundromat. After all, everyone needs clean laundry.

His experience with Laundromats was that they were dark, dingy, and uninviting. That led to an “aha” moment: what about developing a Laundromat that was completely different? What about an appealing destination where locals would want to hang out while doing their laundry? Doing the laundry wouldn’t be so bad, he reasoned, if you could spend the time in comfort sharing a cup of coffee with your neighbors.

The other key element of a Laundromat is, of course, the laundry equipment. Swissa knew that he needed to equip his store with top-quality, high-efficiency washers and dryers that would keep customers coming back over time. And not only would the equipment have to be durable and reliable, it would have to be user-friendly.

Swissa did his research, speaking to representatives from the commercial laundry equipment manufacturers. He says he ultimately chose Dexter Laundry because of its American-made equipment and employee-owned company, plus the sturdiness and modern appearance of its products. The DexterLive technology that allows for different forms of payment also influenced his decision.

It was then that Swissa connected with Hall, representing Dexter distributor WSD. Hall spent a lot of time educating the investor about the retail laundry industry and ultimately helped Swissa with some key decisions, including the right mix of equipment for optimal customer flow.

Coming in Tuesday’s conclusion: Opening a new laundry during a pandemic