The room looks like it’s been through a heavy-duty bleach cycle, but I walk in anyway. It’s 7:15 on Wednesday evening, and I’m at cafe Laundré — the half-cafe, half-laundromat on the corner of 20th and Mission — on its first day in operation.
People pass by its large windows on Mission Street and peek inside, perhaps wondering: really, another hip cafe? Or, why is it so sterile in there? But some walk in, mill around and even buy a cup of coffee.
Others, like me — the brave — ask why a coffee shop would be named Laundré?
I find out that there’s a laundromat located in the back. So I go home and bring back some dirty clothes. I don’t have detergent, so I’m offered liquid soap for a dollar, but I opt for the on-the-house powder soap, which comes in a charming miniature white sand pail.
There are three payment options: card, coins or an app, which would also notify me when my cycle is finished. I download the app, but it doesn’t work. I seek advice from a young woman (who I’m told is the owner). She frantically tries to get the app to work on my phone, rushing off to get her own phone to test it. She tells me I’m the first customer to try the app. After five minutes, I cut my losses and just use my card.
The laundry area is lined with about 20 brand new Electrolux 450 G Force washers capable of adding the right amount of water based on your clothes’ weight, as well as some 20 dryers that regulate heat based on how wet your clothes are. They give the room an undeniable Death Star effect.
I can hear an old lady in the cafe area say: “What are you going to do with all this space?”
A barista says: “I’m not sure, but it’s sure nice having the space.”
“You should have dances — hip-hop dances,” the lady says.
It’s true: the space is so large as to be intimidating, like outer space or the ocean.
I order a decaf cappuccino, which is expertly made, complete with a pristine latte leaf on top. The young owner offers to comp my drink because the app didn’t work, but I pay the $2.70 anyway.
There’s a food menu, too: for $15 you can have a vegan rice bowl, or for $5 a croissant, or a $12 salad. The salads’ containers have the logo Laundré wrapped around them. There are also bottles of green smoothie in an ice case, whose price I’m too afraid to check.
My laundry is finished, and it’s time for me to leave.
But I end up introducing myself to the owner — the women who helped me with the app — and cop to it: I am, after all, a writer. I ask the owner, whose name is Ariana Roviello, why she decided to open a cafe/laundromat in the Mission.
She explains that Laundré was her senior project in college. She studied fashion but ended up “falling in love with laundry” during her research.
“I thought it would be interesting to create a place where you could wash your fashion,” she said.
After graduating, she worked in the fashion industry, but eventually left her job in September 2014 to pursue opening the business. She became a Lyft driver for two years while she drafted her business plans, found some outside funding, and selected a space. She thought the Mission was a good place to open because of its high population of renters who don’t have their own laundry machines.
“It’s been three years to the day, since I quit my job, that I’m opening,” she said.
Roviello says she’s operating on two hours of sleep, and that she had been at the cafe all night getting it ready for today’s “soft” opening. So I decide to leave her alone, go home and fold my clothes for tomorrow.
Am I more fulfilled as human? Maybe not. Are my clothes clean? Yes.
And why would I want anything more than that?