HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Sometimes highlighting coin-op’s unconventional side takes you off the grid. Like my recent journey to the Amazon. No, not the river — the Amazon — e-commerce’s way to all things Laundromat.
Seeing the industry from the perspective of a shopping cart rather than a laundry cart offers a glimpse into our culture’s fascination with that oh-so-public place to get your clean on.
Tapping the keystrokes l-a-u-n-d-r-o-m-a-t, the computer screen is awash with results showcasing a dizzying array of laundro-centric finds ready to be packaged and shipped right to your front door.
We’re not talking mesh laundry bags and electric coin sorters here. No, these discoveries are out of the box, going beyond a coin-op’s four walls.
From imported woolens to knock-your-socks-off art and everything in between, when it comes to the Laundromat on Amazon, they keep the lights on round-the-clock so everyone can spend some coin.
The online platform involves a variety of sellers vying for the buy box, so you might want to check the websites of first-party manufacturers before checking out. And take note that this article is for informational purposes only—no product promotion is made or implied.
If you need proof the Laundromat is an endearing part of the American landscape, look no further than the collectible village miniatures from Lemax and their whimsical take on the corner coin-op.
Standing just over 8 inches, the pint-size Coin-O-Matic Laundromat’s illuminated storefront is a nostalgic look at the quarter wash.
Their Spooky Town Fright and Fold Laundromat offers a sight-and-sound show that dares all those scaredy-cats to step inside. If you don’t heed the audio warning, be prepared for legs spinning out of the top loaders and another unlucky soul tumbling away inside the front loader. The wolf manhandles cart duties at this sinister coin-op, ably assisted by a witch and mummy holding up the clothesline.
Lemax’s lemaxcollection.com company website features a video offering a 360-degree view of the Fright and Fold, as well as particulars on the one-of-a-kind laundry collectibles.
TUNES THAT TUMBLE
While coins hitting the money box is music to any store owner’s ears, all that iron on the floor and families jockeying for position drums up a cacophony of whirling motors and wound-up kids. To put all that noise behind, click on Songs From the Laundromat, a 15-minute series of tracks from Drivin N Cryin.
Described by one Amazon reviewer as “masters of the southern rock grunge,” these veteran Georgia musicians have been striking a chord with audiences for over three decades.
Their first five-song extended play release received five-star ratings from three-quarters of online buyers, with one singing the praises that “the sounds are powerful” — words reverberating all the way to the CD cover depicting a shattered laundry storefront.
For something mellower, there’s Laundromat, a single by artist Nivea featured in her eponymous album and sung with singer-songwriter R. Kelly. Available in streaming, MP3 and audio CD formats, the lyrics might not be the cleanest, but then again, infidelity never is.
If you’re Nivea, you hang up on your man and wash away the memories with the chorus: “Soap, powder, bleach, towels, fabric softener / dollars, change, pants, socks, dirty drawers / I’m headed to the Laundromat / And let’s not forget the food stains, dirt spots, and headsets / chips, pop, pay phones, clean house / I’m headed to the Laundromat.”
Step back in time by adding The Many Faces Of The Detergents to the shopping cart and give a listen to Leader of the Laundromat. The song by The Detergents, a ’60s trio best known for their parodies, took aim at the well-known Shangri-Las hit Leader of the Pack and reached number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after its release in 1965.
Amazon offers digital and vinyl formats of this classic tune that revs up with “And that’s when I fell in love with the Leader of the Laundromat.”
It comes as no surprise that the best place to soak up Laundromats is within Amazon’s book categories. After all, it’s where the iconic online retailer rewrote the buying experience 25 years ago.
Its vast selection of laundry titles could line a library shelf. Hardcovers, paperbacks and Kindle e-books immerse readers young and old into a mixed basket of coin meets laundry, animal meets suds and boy meets girl.
For would-be entrepreneurs looking to get their feet wet in wash-and-dry, the offerings are more extensive than ever. While some books present a general overview of the industry, others are nuts-and-bolts.
It takes a rare breed of laundry operator to collect their thoughts along with the coins. Over the years, some of those well-known in laundry circles have gone on to pen guides and Amazon puts them all a mere click away.
Among the veteran roster are Sally Collins’ paperback Happiness Is Owning a Laundromat, Brian Brunckhorst’s Secrets of Buying and Owning Laundromats, Ben Russell’s Laundries - Are They a Good Business to Get Into?, along with Coin Laundries—Road to Financial Independence by Emerson Higdon.
Those longstanding resources were joined by recent books, including Laundromat Ownership Step-by-Step by Joseph Haywood and Victor Nichols’ Secrets Revealed to Opening Laundromats.
In his 112-page guide, Nichols shares the ups-and-downs of his acquisition and retooling of a pair of coin-ops an hour south of Chicago. He relies on shoe leather to pursue opportunities, taking on the lion’s share of legwork — and headaches — normally reserved for brokers and distributors.
Readers are there when the new operator shakes hands on a new lease, as well as the time he’s shaken by a storefront drive-thru after being handed the keys.
Nichols self-published his work by uploading through Amazon’s CreateSpace platform to offer up both paperback and Kindle versions. The 35-year-old is now expanding his digital presence with the YouTube channel LaundromatSecrets, where he posts videos on a variety of topics.
In a phone call, he shared his advice to those looking to take the plunge into laundry: “Dream big, but start small.”
The Amazon children’s book section includes titles that entertain tykes and young readers with plenty of sudsy tales. There are the perennial favorites — Curious George at the Laundromat and Paddington at the Laundromat — as well as a trio of lesser-known selections, Wiggle to the Laundromat, Vamos a la Lavanderia and Aunt Lilly’s Laundromat.
One of the newest to hit the scene is Debra Steil’s heartwarming tale, Socks the Laundromat Cat. The illustrated paperback and e-book, published last year, depicts the “purrfect” relationship that develops between 7-year-old Kaylin and an abandoned feline she discovers one day at her family’s coin-op.
At the other end of the bookshelf, the e-commerce site also offers a few bizarre titles, including Laundromat at the Edge of the Universe and Punk-o-Matic Laundromat.
And then there’s a whole genre that’s a definite no-go at the coin-op book nook — writings that tell the tale of chance encounters along the wash aisle that turn into torrid affairs. The adult-oriented collection, typically offered in e-book format, is a reminder that some prefer to steam up the dryer glass without plunking in another coin. For them, there’s Dirty Brat at the Laundromat, Getting Lucky: The Laundry Mat Girl and Sock Pervert at the Laundromat.
Yours truly got turned on by an obscure title hidden at the end of the search results which, unfortunately, was unavailable: a rare copy of the Westinghouse Laundromat Service Manual. Now, getting my hands on one of those would indeed be amazing.
Missed Part 1? You can read it HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].