A new owner revitalizes a longtime neighborhood business and community resource

BECKY LUENING - The Woodstock Laundry has a new owner and new washers and dryers, but some residents have been taking their washing there for thirty years or more. THE BEE visited as the upgrade and remodel was getting underway. Within weeks of taking possession of the coin-operated clothes-washing business located on the corner of S.E. Woodstock Boulevard and 48th Avenue, its new owner had replaced eight old dryers, and all but three of the standard top-loading washers. The new washers and dryers were installed the week of April 4-8. The new name of the business is, simply, "Woodstock Laundry".

The oldest dryers, Maytags dating back to the 1970s when natural gas was cheap, had huge gas burners that were not energy efficient – and, in fact, probably cost more to run than they brought in, according to the owner, "John" (who bought it from someone else also named "John"). Four stacked units – that is, eight new energy-efficient dryers – are now installed in the place where those four behemoths once stood.

As for the washers, John decided to keep just three of the top-loaders which each hold 13 pounds of dry wash – "the only ones worth saving," he said – and also three older front-loaders, two with 35-pound capacity, and one with 30-pound capacity. He replaced the others with ten brand new front-loaders with 22-pound dry-wash capacity, plus two large 40-pound-capacity machines.

He explained to us that there are all sorts of parameters an operator can set for water, rinse cycles, etc., but said he's sticking with the factory settings on the new washers to ensure people get a good wash. For ease of access, the front-loaders are seated on a metal frame that boosts their height.

The installer explained to THE BEE that the average lifespan of commercial washers and dryers is 10 to 15 years. The older a machines gets, he said, the harder it is to find parts, and all machines tend to lose efficiency over time.

Being the owner of such a business is a brand new experience for John. He had known a few people who owned coin-operated laundries, but never thought much about owning one himself until last May, when he chanced to meet a woman whose grandmother had bought a small one in a rural area of Washington State when she was 70; she's 95 now, still relatively healthy, and still running it. She's providing a community service, and it's a source of income for her.

That story got John thinking. He used to be a mechanic. He enjoys working with equipment, and he likes people. He hadn't really thought about having a business, but the idea suddenly clicked, and he started looking around. On a research mission, he visited just about every such business in Southeast Portland, as well as in Hillsboro, Beaverton, Clackamas, and Estacada. He even ventured into Washington State. To learn more about what it would take to runone, he joined the Coin Laundry Association, a problem-solving business forum.

John thought he'd like one in a rural or small-town setting, where it would be part of community life. Then someone told him about the coin-op in Woodstock, which he learned is "a commercial district with a small-town vibe". Right away he saw the positive aspects of the site; it's right on the main street, on a corner. Glass walls on two sides provide good visibility and a pleasant ambience – and if people don't want to hang out at the laundry, they can easily walk to the library or to nearby businesses as their clothes wash.

He's already talked to a lot of regular patrons of the laundry, and said the vast majority are encouraging – happy for him, and happy about the new equipment. He has met people who have been coming there for 20 to 30 years. Some have their own washers or dryers, but use the commercial laundry when they have a lot to do, because they can get it all done at one time, or when their own equipment is broken.

John is pleased to be stepping into the role of running what he sees as a community-oriented service business. He said he will continue using the services of the woman who has been in charge of cleaning and locking up the laundromat for the past 17 years. He wants to hear from patrons about their experiences with the new equipment, and is excited about the possibility of other upgrades he may bring to Woodstock Laundry if there is customer demand.

Contract Publishing

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