As regular readers know, the origin story of the laundromat began when my wife Jana went to our neighborhood laundromat and had a terrible experience. Her experience prompted me to write a post about "third spaces," how they are disappearing, but how churches should use laundromats to create them.
So I wrote the post Instead of a Coffee Shop How About a Laundromat?
That post got a lot of attention, and I encourage you to read the comments of that post to see all the different ways churches are using laundromats to serve their neighborhoods and create third spaces.
In our neighborhood, Wash This Way opened a few weeks ago and it going great! Check out the Wash This Way Facebook page and note all the reviews. And as expected, Wash This Way is becoming a third space, a place where every part of Abilene intersects and mingles together. One Wash This Way review:
I'm so glad that my friend told me about this place! Our washer AND dryer are on the fritz and this mama of FOUR desperately needed to do some laundry. I was able to wash three loads (with my 2yr old and baby in tow) in less than an hour. The facility is clean and the staff is friendly and helpful. I'll be back!Having watched Mike and Kathy start a laundromat, let me revisit and update my original post.
Why a laundromat instead of a coffee shop?
First, watching Wash This Way everything I said in my original post is true. If a church wants to create a neighborhood third space, a space where neighbors are served and the demographic groups of the city mix and mingle, a laundromat accomplishes this better than a coffee shop. Just walk into Wash This Way and you'll see for yourself.
That said, laundromats are very expensive to build. The land, the building, the machines. This capital investment may cause churches to step back. Churches don't generally take out loans to start businesses.
But I think they should. For two reasons.
At least in our city and neighborhood, the laundromat was a good business investment. It might not be in your location, but here in Abilene it was. As one Facebook reviewer for Wash This Way said, "This laundromat is an awesome, modern and much needed addition in Abilene."
All that to say, for many churches, yes, it might be strange to take out a loan for a laundromat, but it can be a great business decision, a source of revenue that could the church could use for other ministries.
The second reason churches should start businesses is highlighted in this Wash This Way review: "Wow best laundry mat ever!! Great place and it gave people jobs!!!"
Churches struggle to get out of the trap of benevolence ministries, with all the problems we've read about in books like When Helping Hurts. But if churches want to get into the business of empowerment, they need to start running businesses alongside their food pantries. Churches need a way to give people jobs. And a laundromat is a great place to do that.
We'll see you at the laundromat!