On Jan. 6, the Wash Mill Laundromat on East Eighth Street closed its doors after 40 years of business.
Another laundromat, the Quick Clean Center, used to be located on G Street but is no longer in business. After the closure of these laundromats, there remains only one laundromat in the city of Davis: The Laundry Lounge, located in the Anderson Plaza behind Save Mart.
According to Dina Connor, owner of The Laundry Lounge, they have expanded their hours to accommodate the increase in demand for laundry services. They now open at 8 a.m. on the weekends and 7 a.m. on weekdays and close at 10 p.m. nightly, with the “last wash” now at 9 p.m. instead of 8:30 p.m.
Prices to use washing machines range from $2 to $6.50, depending on the machine. Dryers are 25 cents for six minutes.
“I personally think there is a demand for only one laundromat [in Davis],” Connor said. “Sundays are a bit busier, but before the other ones closed we were barely scraping by.”
The recession of 2008 impacted many individuals, including small business owners.
“We signed our lease right before the recession started. We had to raise our prices, and we lost a lot of business to the Wash Mill,” Connor said. “It was hard. Our landlord’s rents are very competitive and in that sense, he’s very fair, but we haven’t been able to negotiate a rent decrease.”
Laundromats also face competition from companies such as Coinmach, the “industry leader in multifamily laundry equipment,” according to the Coinmach website.
Coinmach is the largest laundry equipment service provider in the U.S., operating equipment at over 80,000 locations in need of laundry facilities, such as apartment complexes.
Companies such as Coinmach partner with managements and provide and service the laundry equipment for communal laundry facilities.
“Apartments essentially have mini-laundromats,” Connor said. “The laundromats in Davis are competing against that. We have to pay our own utility costs, and they [companies such as Coinmach] don’t have to.”
Laundromats also face the issue of being privately operated enterprises that also provide a service, according to Max Connor, co-owner of The Laundry Lounge and brother of Dina Connor.
“Laundromats provide a community service, but they’re also a business,” Max said. “There are certain realities involved with running them as a business.”
These realities include the competitive nature of the market system.
“The Wash Mill was a typical laundromat — no attendant, open 24 hours a day and [the owner’s] costs were so low because she had no employees and a very low rent,” Dina said. “Businesses aren’t forced to be competitive when their rent is so low.”
The former owner of the Wash Mill, Sharon Miller, could not be reached for comment. On the Wash Mill door there was a sign that read: “To all of my friends that have used my Laundromat for 40 years, I would like to thank you. The landlord has given me 30 days.”
According to the Connors, the center that included the Wash Mill was sold, and the new leasing agent began charging market value for the rent. A Goodwill store will now be located at the Wash Mill’s former location.
The Connors looked into opening another laundromat at the former Quick Clean Center location on G Street, but they said it was not financially feasible. It is not evident that another laundromat will open in Davis any time soon.
“No one has signed a lease yet,” said David Macko, leasing agent for Nor Cal Commercial Real Estate in regard to the G Street property. “We are talking to several parties, but my role is to find the most suitable tenant for the building.”
The Laundry Lounge is considering other ways to expand their services for the community after the closure of the Wash Mill.
“We’re looking at something called laundry taxi — we’ll pick up your laundry for a nominal fee, you go here yourself and do your laundry and then we’ll drop it back off for you,” Dina said.
The goal of this service is to make laundry easier for those without cars so they do not have to haul loads of laundry by foot, bike or bus, according to Dina.
“We’re going to start offering it this spring and see if there is a demand for it,” Dina said. “So far we’ve heard from one person who is interested.”
MEREDITH STURMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.