The market for laundromats, or coin laundries, has grown rapidly with single-person households increasing, especially around university areas. In the past, laundromats were simply used as laundry spaces where people washed and dried their clothes. Today, they are turning into much more.
The rise of laundromats that have diversified their internal space is an ongoing trend. Laundry Today, a laundromat near Hapjeong Station, gained fame for its visitor diary. During the summer of 2019, customers who visited Laundry Today for their laundry were invited to write a diary entry in a red notebook while waiting for their laundry to finish. Shortly after, the owner noticed that customers began commenting on other people’s writing as well and replying to one another. The red notebook also began filling up with messages, emoticons, and illustrations. It became a source of communication between the neighbors in the area.
Laundromat cafés are also another growing trend in Seoul. In Seodaemun-gu, near the back gate of Myongji University, a laundromat café aptly named ‘Laundreeze’ opened its doors in 2018. Since then, Laundreeze has become a place for the neighborhood residents, mainly university students, to not only wash their clothing, but to also use the café.
“During my long trip in Hong Kong, I once carried a pile of laundry to a laundromat café that I found to be both new and exotic,” Kim Yun- woo, the owner of Laudreeze, said. “Returning to Seoul, I made plans to open a similar laundromat where people can do laundry and enjoy cultural life simultaneously. Today’s Laundreeze sets itself apart from other laundromats in that it provides a space for people to read, rest on a massage chair, and study while drinking coffee.”
The main keyword of Laundreeze is ‘remove.’ This relates to its catchphrase, “Let’s remove weight by drinking diet coffee! Remove toxins by drinking detox drinks! Remove stains by doing laundry!” Just like any other laundromat, Laundreeze has the regular fare of washing and drying machines. Along with these facilities, there is a counter positioned in one corner for people to order beverages including diet coffee and fruit extract juice as well as café snacks like sandwiches, cakes, and single portion pizzas. Many tables and chairs are available within the store for usage.
When asked why more people are finding complex cultural spaces like Laundreeze attractive, Kim replied that it enables them to use their time efficiently. Since it is a synergy business that is created by the combination of two industries, it is possible for people to multitask and gain the feeling of satisfaction and leisure. Moreover, he also mentioned how people can experience the pleasantness of a café atmosphere.
“I believe the warm feeling of a café, rather than a rigid arrangement of washing machines, will comfort people,” Kim said.
According to Kim, especially during exam periods, university students from Myongji and Yonsei University make up most of the customers. The students use the café exactly as what it was intended for which is doing their laundry and studying.
Learning how to do laundry is important as there are various ways to wash depending on the clothes. Kim noticed that many students who live alone tend to lack thereof. Students can seek help from the manager or make use of the handling service which is a service provided at Laundreeze where a staff does the laundry for them.
“Many people still feel unfamiliar with the multipurpose space and conceive misunderstandings such as wrongly thinking that it is mandatory to use both kinds of services,” Kim said. “To overcome this, I will continue creating a friendlier environment where people can easily approach and take pleasure by using.”
Laundreeze plans to expand as a franchise business and is preparing for the opening of a second store in Eunpyeong-gu furthering this fusion of mixed practical and cultural spaces.