Forgotten NY correspondent
It seems like “mom and pop” businesses are closing at a rapid pace in NYC. Small bakeries, pizzerias, hardware stores, donut shops have been victims. Remember what happened to the small video stores when Blockbuster came on the scene? Between changing technology and rising rents, the squeeze has been on for many years. Small laundromats are no different. Take a look around the city and you’ll see one big difference in the laundromat industry. You’ll see more and more mega-laundromats springing up in many places, and you’ll see many storefront laundromats like this one at 180 Underhill Avenue, near Sterling Place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. One of the largest , if not the largest laundromat chain is Clean-Rite. Laundromats such as these have one thing many “mom and pop” locations don’t have: parking for customers.
Changing technology now makes coin-operated washers and dryers obsolete. Are there any FNY fans who remember when a washer at a laundromat was 25 cents per load and dryers were 10 cents for ten minutes of drying time and of how you either brought lots of quarters and dimes, or got change from the attendant or nearest store? Now Clean-Rite and the other mega laundries use a system analogous to the MTA’s Metro Card. If you’re a first-time customer at Clean-Rite, you have to “purchase” a card, which is the same size as a MetroCard, for $2.00. Like the MetroCard, you add value to the card by inserting the card in a wall installed computer, along with cash in the appropriate slot. Before you use the washer or dryer, the card must be inserted into a slot on the washer or dryer. After each insertion, funds are subtracted from the card. Oh, and one more thing: Since the attendant handles no cash, the machine that accepts cash to add value to your card also makes change for paper currency.
This system is advantageous for the laundromat for several reasons:
1. Coins, which are heavy, cumbersome and burdensome, don’t have to be handled by human hands, which help lower operating costs for the owner. 2. It prevents pilfering by employees who just can’t resist temptation to put a few coins in their pockets. 3. Since the attendant doesn’t handle cash for the laundromat, security and safety is enhanced.