CHICAGO — Decisions, decisions, decisions. Washer islands or shotgun along the wall? Stainless steel — with or without chrome? Round-the-clock or 6-to-10? And then there’s the biggie — what to call your business. Welcome to The Name Game.
Way back when self-service laundry was in its infancy, naming that 20-washer, 10-dryer baby fell to those who supplied the equipment and their parent manufacturer. Depending on the machinery and region, the sudsy emporium was typically tagged as a Laundromat, coin wash, coin-op, washeteria, wash house or similar soapy title.
While today’s branding and affiliations remain strong to drive home a message of clean clothes fast, some operators think outside the box — way outside. They spell success with laundry names that may have you doing a double-take or just plain knock your socks off.
Bowser’s Bubbles is named after owners Kei Kuanchai and Michael Lincoln’s pet, a half Thai/half Rhodesian Ridgeback mix with celebrity status at the newly renovated coin-op in Smithfield, Rhode Island. This wide-eyed, playful canine graces the store’s logo and makes occasional appearances much to the delight of kids.
Kuanchai says she hopes to unleash the full potential of her first laundry venture with an unforgettable mascot and bubbly décor makeover.
And speaking of mascots, hop on down to any of The Blue Kangaroo Laundromats in and around greater Chicago and southeastern Wisconsin.
In sunny Fort Myers, Florida, it’s a happy life at The Happy Wife Laundromat. Here, spouses, families and singles find contentment on wash day with a choice of immaculate rows of self-service machines or personalized, full-service wash-dry-fold.
If you’re inclined to go long when it comes to names, try “Dixie Rose Deluxe’s Honky-Tonk, Feed Store, Gun Shop, Used Car, Beer, Bait, BBQ, Barber Shop, Laundromat” on for size. It’s not a real coin-op, but country music artist Trent Willmon did sing the praises of this all-purpose outlet with an eye toward Dixie’s daughter Becky Jo.
Displaying civic pride by placing the community first is always a winning move. That’s cemented at the eponymous Concrete Laundromat in Washington state. Regulars of this quaint storefront find the aisle paved with heavy-duty washers and always make sure to leave plenty of time to dry.
When your next-door neighbor offers up an aerial adventure of ziplines and one-of-a-kind gorge kayaking, why not name your coin-op after the main attraction? That’s exactly what they do at the Thrillsville Laundromat in Slade, Kentucky, delivering wet wash and fast extract in seven front loaders along with exhilarating coin-op showers.
GERMAN VIBE IN THE LAUNDROMAT
One new kid on the block is certainly giving locals something to talk about. Amanda Bell doesn’t just think outside the box, she thinks outside the country. Her Waschsalon — the German name for Laundromat — debuted last year in Jasper, Indiana, a city of 15,000 residents with deep German ancestral roots.
Bell showcases the establishment’s unique name inside and out. The bold logo leaves no doubt this is the place to get your wasch on. A power entryway leads to banks holding 32 front loaders accented by decorative block letters spelling out the laundry’s name, along with a boutique dress form displaying a staff t-shirt. The subtle calling cards are enhanced by chandeliers overhead and sconce lighting at the walls.
Bell says she and her husband David’s vision of a “German vibe in the Laundromat” began by streaming hours online to research what sets waschsalons apart from their American counterparts. Bringing an interior designer on board turned her dream into a reality. She pulled off the feat without traveling overseas and hopes one day to make the journey to take in the foreign laundry scene from a new perspective.
Contrasting Waschsalon’s modern machinery is old-world rustic beauty in the form of show-stopping wooden folding tables meticulously handcrafted by Bell’s father, Jeff Johnson.
Loyalty card payment, cushioned seating, background music, and a water dispenser are some of the creature comforts on offer in the 3,000-square-foot venue, delivering what the owner describes as a welcoming and comfortable experience for patrons.
Bell says she and her staff pride themselves not only on the facility’s services, but also how it’s maintained in an environmentally safe manner. Their secret eco-friendly tools: vinegar, water and Dawn dishwashing liquid.
ALL RIGHT THERE IN THE FAMILY NAME
Store operator Jo Andryshak didn’t have to look across the ocean in search of what to call her laundry. It was all right there in the family name.
For the past 13 years, The Laundry Shak has built a big reputation in the small town of Florida, New York, some 90 minutes north of Gotham.
Before throwing open the doors, the Andryshaks held a vote. Their surname presented a neat word play. Out of the two finalists — “The Wash An Dry Shak” and “The Laundry Shak” — the latter got the nod.
While Andryshak cast her vote with the minority, she nevertheless rose to local prominence sporting the vanity license plate “Mrs. Shak.”
The 22-washer/22-dryer-pocket coin-op is known for its machines on the floor and on the wall. What began as a simple coloring sheet to help kids pass the time morphed over time into a floor-to-ceiling gallery along one side of the double-storefront laundry. “The Shakie,” a caricature of a happy washer, got a workout from the Crayolas before being laminated and displayed for all to admire. Shakie’s long run was interrupted recently when the showcase wall was cleared for a fresh coat of paint as part of a store refresh.
Asked where name ranks when it comes to successful operations, Andryshak says it plays a pivotal role in driving store traffic: “The name will get you in the door, but the equipment is what gets them coming back.”
Check back Wednesday for the conclusion!
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].