Mission Laundromat storefront
Mission Laundromat. Taken Dec. 29, 2021 by Annika Hom.

In the end, Mission Laundromat just couldn’t handle the load. 

After more than a decade, Mission Laundromat at 3282 22nd St., near Bartlett, has closed, confirmed owner Jacob Malek-Zadeh. The 77-year-old said his laundromat served local families for 15 years and hosted community events like “Dirty Laundry: Loads of Prose” readings during the local literary festival Litquake. A 2006 Chronicle photo shows a woman transfixed by a performance as other listeners press their backs against the metallic machines. 

“I had beautiful, loyal customers,” Malek-Zadeh said.

Emily Rubin, the founder of the “Dirty Laundry” series, recalled its first presentation at Litquake in 2006, with people perched atop washing machines. Everyone was welcoming. She would go on to put on five or six more shows there, traveling from New York to do so. And she remembered how both art lovers and laundry-toting customers united in a laundromat film screening one year.

“The Mission Laundromat was always so supportive, and said, ‘The place is yours, just make sure the people can do their laundry,’” Rubin recalled. “I often asked people to move out of the way of the machine to get the laundry from the machine to the dryer.”

Mission Laundromat. Taken Dec. 29, 2021 by Annika Hom.

However, for the past few years and for a multitude of reasons, Mission Laundromat began to suffer financially. 

Even before the pandemic, Malek-Zadeh noticed a downturn in business. Nearly one in three laundromats in the city closed in the last 10 years, according to data from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Malek-Zadeh, who has lived in the Mission for more than 35 years now, said a changing neighborhood demographic also meant changing needs and services.

“I think there’s a lack of families. Our neighborhood became a lot more professional; a lot of single professionals, rather than Spanish-speaking families,” he said, which he thinks hurt his establishment. Perhaps newer units come fit with machines, or younger demographics crave different services. He tried to lure new clientele in by advertising a wash-and-fold service, but ultimately, the lack of a committed staff person for that role meant it didn’t pan out. 

And a laundromat is an expensive undertaking, Malek-Zadeh said; water and electricity alone can cost around $4,000 a month. By the time he decided to shutter the Mission Laundromat, the revenue wasn’t covering expenses, he said. 

Then “the pandemic hit the nail in,” Malek-Zadeh said. He never could pin down why customers weren’t coming in — maybe because they worried about indoor facilities harboring the virus. “I don’t know if people were afraid of using it, but we cleaned. But whatever we did, we got less and less people.” 

In unfortunate timing, Malek-Zadeh had invested tens of thousands of dollars in brand-new machines for Mission Laundromat a few years prior to the pandemic. The laundromat maintained roughly 26 dryers and 18 washers, and loads were priced toward “the bottom of the barrel,” he said. 

read:

‘Historic laundromat’: New owners want to be ‘good neighbors’ — but polarizing plans for site remain in place

The strange and terrible saga of the city’s “historic laundromat” at 2918 Mission St. came to an ostensible conclusion in April. That’s when, for $13.5 million, the property passed out of the hands of Robert Tillman — a man described by put-upon city officials as “not a developer” but “an ideologue doing a development” —…

These days, workers are extracting the machines from the establishment. Another businessmen who works in the San Mateo laundry business stopped by one day, and bought half of them.

He still owes at least a tenth of his loan, but Malek-Zadeh said he also owns an ATM business, and will probably maintain that until he can pay off the rest. “I have to pay so many bills,” he said. 

Eventually, he just couldn’t make the rent. He says his landlord wouldn’t negotiate, but allowed Malek-Zadeh to break his lease a year early. 

“I was going to be retired, but the laundromat retired before I could,” he said.

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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6 Comments

  1. Tragic, this was my closest laundromat. Sure, I’m one of the young professionals that’s new to the Mission, but my building doesn’t have laundry and I find it absurd paying someone to do it for me. I’ll miss doing my wash here and grabbing a beer at Latin American Club next door while I wait.

  2. Based upon the Planning Commission’s recent unanimous vote to protect laundromats and the likely passage of Supervisor Mandelman’s legislation codifying these change-of-use restrictions into law, the landlord is going to have a dickens of a time trying to lease the space for any other use.

    https://hoodline.com/2021/10/sf-laundromats-just-got-a-heavy-load-of-protection-from-the-planning-commission/

    Accordingly, I predict that this will be yet another storefront that’s going to be vacant for the foreseeable future. I wonder how Peskin’s storefront vacancy tax would apply to this situation?

    1. Agreed. They can’t legislate businesses to be successful. Now it’s harder to use the space for anything else.

    2. Karl, unfortunately I think you’ll be correct. The legislation should encourage more laundromats, not discourage the removal of the current ones. Now this poor guy is stuck with a building that is limited to one use. Therefore, the property is less valuable. Basically, this is taking money out of people pockets. Fucking idiot Peskin.

      Maybe rent subsidies or tax breaks to encourage folks to start a business?

      1. Since it’s obstinately a ‘tax’, then with no income to tax, no tax will be due. Just more bad government by the worst government around. This should be enough to have it declared unconstitutional and stupid legislation passed by the stupidvisors has been declared unconstitutional before. But they won’t care, it’s all about leftist value signaling and appealing to the lowest common denominator. The only thing the stupidvisors excel at.

  3. Agreed w all the comments above.
    BoS don’t care about the consequences, just about pandering for votes to keep their seat. Out w/ these leftist supervisors. We need thoughtful moderates like Weidner and less impulsive nitwitts like Ronan.
    Pretty sure they had to abandon the vacant storefront tax due to the pandemic, a good journalist would have covered this.
    Also, it’s practically impossible to start a new laundromat in SF due to utilities so once the laundromats close, don’t expect new ones popping up elsewhere.
    (Maybe Tech can design is some clothes that don’t need to be washed 🙂
    Best of luck to the business and building owner, it’s not easy in this town with all the rules, regs & city expenses. 15yrs is a long run for any business owner in this town and probably ages you by another 10yrs!

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