Are these the final days for laundromats in Sacramento?

Two big Midtown laundry spots shutter

After being shut down for code violations—and for drug dealing by employees—the owner of the former City Suds laundromat hopes it will become a multiuse space, perhaps including a new restaurant.

After being shut down for code violations—and for drug dealing by employees—the owner of the former City Suds laundromat hopes it will become a multiuse space, perhaps including a new restaurant.

photo by nick miller

Jessica Rine is a summer intern at SN&R.

These days, the whirring of dryers and the smell of freshly washed garments is less prevalent in the central city, what with the recent closing of two Midtown laundromats. Which raises the question: Are these the final days of laundry shops in Sacramento?

Probably not—there are still more than a handful of spots to clean one’s clothes on the central-city grid—but some of the larger, more popular locations are disappearing.

Fort Sutter Launderland, the destination on K and 24th streets, shuttered recently. And City Suds, at the corner of L and 19th streets, is no longer a bustling central-city laundromat, either. Instead, there is a chain-link fence and a “For Lease” sign out front.

The location closed in December 2012 due to issues with the building not being up to code, according to Emilie Costan, citywide records manager. The Sacramento Police Department also arrested several City Suds employees for dealing drugs from inside the building, according to police reports.

“You hear lots of stories,” said Mark Sherman, owner and operator of Sudz Yer Dudz on Folsom Boulevard. “There was some illegal activity going on. They came and arrested the employees that were working there. When they did that, they noticed there were issues with the building.

Sacramento Police Department spokeswoman Michele Gigante told SN&R that “there were nuisance issues at the property for years.”

“Code enforcement slapped them with an administrative penalty just short of $5,000. They appealed it, the appeal was heard and they lost,” she said. Officers also made several arrests at the building.

“The folks in there really destroyed it with drugs, illicit dealings, things like that,” said Shaun Morrow, a commercial real-estate broker with Terranomics, who is handling the lease of the City Suds property.

According to city records, the 4,400 square-feet property had violations such as obstructed exits, improper use of extension cords and storage areas, and restrooms being used as sleeping areas. Records state that the building has since been brought up to code and is ready for new tenants.

The rumor among the small community of Sacramento laundromat owners is that the property’s owner wants it to be something besides another laundromat. “[The owner] would prefer if it became [a string] of businesses, or if a restaurant came and took it over,” said Marcia Myers, owner of Launderland at 16th and F Streets.

Laundromats are expensive investments, according to Myers and Sherman.

That said, there is opportunity in the laundry industry. Laundromats today are a much more attractive cousin to the awkward, tile-floored laundry warehouses dimly lit with fluorescent lights of a decade ago.

“We think it has a future based on simple demographics,” argued Brian Wallace, president and CEO of the Coin Laundry Association. “More people, more dirty clothes. The renter population and middle- to low-income families—those demographics are expanding.”

Wallace says that utility costs at laundromats are always growing more expensive. “Because it affects our bottom line so much, we have been early adopters of efficient energy usage,” he said.

Sherman agrees. “There’s more and more business people seeing the opportunity. They’re buying it. They’re running it correctly. They’re cleaning it up; it’s nice.”

Myers at Launderland says she worries that there may be, in fact, too much competition in the central city. “Three laundromats on the grid, and all of us are competing, and I don’t think any of us have done really well. Being able to do business and really make a living, there should only be one on the grid,” she said.

But what about the days of cleaning clothes at 2 in the morning?

“You don’t see any laundromats open 24 hours, because it’s not worth it with the overhead,” she explained.