Coming clean about the lack of laundromats

by | Oct 20, 2022

Vandalism and theft make public clothes-cleaning operations a risky business option

The lack of laundromats in the region is causing significant inconvenience for residents in Carleton County communities.
Woodstock resident Buffy Clark’s washer broke earlier in the year, and she didn’t have the money to replace it. While saving for a replacement, she was forced to rely on a laundromat. Unfortunately, the closest one is in Hartland.

To do laundry now, Clark must make the 20-minute drive to Hartland and wait 30 minutes for each load to go through the washer. While she usually takes her laundry home and dries it on her clothesline, sometimes she must dry it at the laundromat, adding another 30 to 60 minutes per load.

Clark shared that it typically takes a minimum of one and a half hours to do her laundry and costs $3 to $9 per load, depending on if she must dry it there. That doesn’t include the cost of gas to get there and back.

The process is inconvenient at best, but sometimes it can be downright difficult. Recently, Clark arrived at the laundromat to discover a local catering company occupying all the machines while they washed their linens. They informed her it would be two to three hours before there would be any availability for her.

“I had to turn around and go back home, then go back [that] night,” said Clark. “Because it was so late, I couldn’t hang my clothes on the line like I normally would since I needed the clothes for work the next day.”

The two trips to Hartland and hours at the laundromat took place on Clark’s day off from work – the only day she has the time to drive to the laundromat, which is only open from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.

“Thank goodness I have no kids!” said Clark, adding that she could only imagine how much more difficult it would be for families who deal with several loads of laundry per week.The last laundromat in Woodstock was Suds n Duds, located on lower Main Street. Owner Brent Clark closed the laundromat several years ago. No one has taken it on to open another one.

Woodstock resident Geraldine Campbell considered starting up a new laundromat, going as far as completing a business case study.
Unfortunately, the study showed a laundromat would not be a profitable venture. Campbell explained that the biggest issue was the risk of vandalism and theft.

“The problem with laundromats is if they’re not maintained [staffed], they get destroyed,” she said.
Campbell said that in her experience, non-staffed laundromats see the machines regularly vandalized, sometimes even destroyed. Theft is also routinely attempted. Unfortunately, the costs to pay an employee to monitor the location would offset the profit.

“I can see why there isn’t one, as much as there is a need,” Campbell said.
Chris Brennan, who runs The Laundry Centre in Florenceville-Bristol, is all too familiar with the struggles that come with operating a laundromat.On Sept 29, vandals stole the coin boxes from his laundry machines, representing the latest in a string of vandalism that forced him to close the business.

“I’ve been running the laundromat for six or eight years now,” he said. “There was never a lot of vandalism until recently. Unfortunately, you just can’t leave anything unattended now.”

Brennan is still determining what the future holds for the laundromat now. He said that he would like to re-open the business but admitted that there are significant logistical challenges as he tries to find a way to minimize his risk of loss and damages while remaining profitable.

Brennan explained that moving the laundromat into an occupied building that would have staff on-site during operating hours is an option under consideration.

With frustration, Brennan said, “There’s always that few that ruin it for everybody.”

He stated that if the vandalism in the area keeps up, “we’re going to lose a lot of the conveniences around here.”
Unfortunately, in the meantime, people like Buffy Clark will be left with few options.

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