Tyrone Akins and Brian Holland knew that they didn’t want to be in the pharmaceutical business forever. At the same time, they knew that if they opened a business that it had to be unique and welcoming to customers if it was going to succeed.
Most laundromats in inner cities are not very glamorous inside. They’re often dingy looking and don’t offer much to their customers besides dim lighting and old washing machines that accept nothing but quarters. Akins and Holland wanted to change this perception when they opened The Laundry Café.
The café offers Starbucks products, five vending machines with both drinks and snacks, massage chairs, multiple televisions throughout, a digital DJ station for customers to choose their music, and even arcade games for the kids. Customers pay for all of their products with a pre-paid debit card in order to promote safety and avoid walking around with large sums of money.
“We went all throughout Philadelphia to see the quality of laundromats that people were being offered,” Akins said. “We told each other that if we were going to do this, that we had to upscale everything. That’s why it looks like an upscale house when you walk in.”
Outside of just laundry services, Akins and Holland decided to offer community support programs for their customers. They bring in local personalities to speak with members of the community, host entrepreneurial classes for prospective business owners, and even provide guidance for young people looking to purchase their first home.
“The ugly thing about laundry is that it’s a chore no matter how you cut it,” Holland said. “While you’re here, we’re trying to take advantage of that moment that gives you the opportunity to relax and settle in.”
There is currently one other café located at 9th Street and Girard Avenue. Another one is in the works but the location has not been disclosed. Akins and Holland would like to expand their brand to the Temple area sooner rather than later.
“We really would like to be the official laundromat of Temple, that’s our number one goal,” Akins said. “That’s a lot of what our cradle values are all about.”
Akins and Holland recently put together an honor roll program for children that rewards them for good grades at school.
“We’re trying to deal with some of the perils of Philadelphia and education is obviously one of them,” Holland said. “We want to encourage them to keep going.”
– Text, video and images by Amanda Thompson