Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wash, Dry & Fold: Normandy Laundromat

Camilla with my clean laundry, folded. Before a move from a 2-story historic townhouse in November, 2010, into a smaller historic carriage house in Ellicott City, I had not experienced the term "W D F" or laundromats, do-it-yourself (Coin-ops) for that matter. We, then I, always had a washer and dryer. Regular sized, apartment sized......and then, none.

My initial reaction to "none" was fearful and negative; then, for some odd reason (not maturity), I re-gained my composure and looked for alternatives.  First, I used my son's washer and dryer...but as time went on, I decided to take the matter into my own hands--so to speak--and find a laundromat in the area. 

One day, while at Normandy Shopping Center (located on Normandy Center Drive and Route 40) where I usually went to a UPS Store or to True Nails, I noticed a sign on one of the stores up a level-- LAUNDROMAT: WASH DRY & FOLD. 

Of course, I was wary categorically of a  new experience and this was an unknown to me as to the product quality; I certainly never wondered about Laundromat history!  Now, I am a regular customer at the Normandy Laundromat and have gotten to  know the helpful professional staff there--Naomi, Missy and her Mom, Brenda...and Julia. 

 Brief History of USA Laundromats:  Wanting to know more about the first laundromat (wash-a-teria) in the United States, I first queried Wikipedia. Not being sure about the information, however, I went to primary sources online to find a photocopy of a newspaper, (see below).

TEXAS LANDMARKS TRIBUNE    Vol MMXI, No 108  April 18, 1934     Wednesday Evening.   US gets first Laundromat.  Fort Worth Celebrates.  First Washateria opens.   FORT WORTH.   On this date in 1934, the first washateria (laundromat) in the United States was opened by C. A. Tannahill in Fort Worth.
Additional research, back to *Wikipedia:   A self-service laundry is a facility where clothes are washed and dried. They are known in the United States, Canada, and Australia as laundromats (from the genericized trademark of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation). George Edward Pendray created the word "laundromat" for Westinghouse.  Laundry Equipment Service made the first Laundromat.   MORE from *:  Staffed laundries. Some laundries employ staff to provide service for the customers. Minimal service centres may simply provide an attendant behind a counter to provide change, sell washing powder, and watch unattended machines for potential theft of clothing. Others allow customers to drop off clothing to be washed, dried, and folded. This is often referred to as Fluff & Fold, Wash-n-Fold, bachelor bundles, a service wash or full-service wash. There are over 35,000 laundries throughout the United States.   

 Fluff n Fold services.  Known in my part of the country as W D & F.  The evolution of self-serve laundry services have been seen in some "fluff n fold" services provided by various laundromats. These services provide the end user with wash, dry, and folding services on a per pound basis.

Cut to Present:  Now, once a week, I take my 10 lbs. or so of various types of laundry to the Normandy Laundromat.  Generally, it costs me about $10.00 or about $1.00/lb. What I get back all neat and folded, and wrapped up, is well worth the money.  I was never to nice to my clothes. It makes me "want to be a better person," that is, put them away with more sensitivity.  Shown: Missy and Mom, Brenda. Brenda started working at Normany Laundromat in 1984; Missy in 1991. Missy exclaimed the first time I asked her about it, "I grew up here!" That stuck with me.

According to Naomi, pictured here, there are a variety of sizes: "We have 20, 30, 40, 50 and 75 gallon machines."  She added, "What I find most interesting is folding baby tiny...all the little hooks and buttons..." 

Naomi told me she grew up in Puerto Rico and recalled her Mother employed in a laundry business washing clothes in a river, using a blue bar of soap "that smelled so wonderful. Oh, I can still smell it!" Her description was so vivid that it painted a beautiful picture in my mind.

Now, laundry soap is available from a coin-op machine, of course, but most customers bring their own, I was told.

NOTE:  After I hand in my sack of dirty clothes at the WD &F counter, I need to pay the $10 in cash and get a receipt before work may begin. I always try to have the correct change.

Above: Missy tells me more about the laundromat and how it functions every day. Always bright, swept clean, and very organized--with friendly professional staff--it is a genuine pleasure to take my laundry to NORMANDY LAUNDROMAT.    

Blog feature: Kay Weeks



Anonymous said...

That was really interesting to hear how it's done 'across the Pond'.

Well used to them, but out of practice... not sure where the nearest one would be, but I guess, in a shopping mall.

Kay Weeks said...

Thanks, reader in the UK. Yes, this is in a shopping mall.


bryanji said...

We did our laundry there for years!

doreen said...

We did our laundry there for years, even treated ourselves to the W D & F once. My clothes never looked so good. It's nice to see the gals are still there; they were all so nice.

Anonymous said...

Doesnt take much to make you a better person Kay. In Vietnam my laundry is picked up,delivered,washed ,ironed ,folded and wrapped for 6-7 dollars. So far it has not made me a better person. For some reason I couldnt post on your wonderful cat story. I want to come visit but im afraid you will put me in the Howard County facility...Harve

Anonymous said...

kay...i read your blog, and it's delightful. now i know where to go if i need to wash my clothes. i love the concept of a washateria. it's a virtual happening (as opposed to the...uugghh...laundromat)!

it was really kind (and generous) of you to post this blog for the "girls" at the washateria. i feel as if i know them. i bet they're totally excited about getting the press! :)


Anonymous said...

The original Maytag man used to work with my dad in an office.

Anna M. Lincoln

Anonymous said...

Ah, the dreaded laundromat. All I had there were bad memories from long ago. Last time I used on was probably in 1960. Thanks for the history.

San Diego, CA

Anonymous said...

i enjoyed your recent feature of ellicott city's laundromat. sweet smellin' clean.

ciao, lora

Anonymous said...

Kay... I enjoyed your clever article!

Trudy Sundberg
Whidbey Island, WA