Young Couple Buys and Renovates Old Laundromat In South Carolina

Jon and Erin on their honeymoon road trip where they frequently visited laundromats.

One couple’s journey to renovate a tired laundromat has captured viral attention as they finally opened their new and improved community hub.

Erin Carpenter, 30, and her husband Jonathan, 33, have been renovating properties for years, and while on the hunt for their next project stumbled on a laundromat in their hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.

“A laundromat was never really on my radar personally, but Jon is a very smart entrepreneur and businessman, he’s always been interested in the concept of a laundromat,” Carpenter told Newsweek.

Married in June 2020, the couple had their own experience of using laundromats during their 4-month honeymoon living on the road in an RV: “We worked remotely, so we sometimes needed to work from laundromats. We took so many photos of them,” said Carpenter. “They were places we spent a lot of time and there aren’t a lot that are cozy and comfortable.”

In July 2022, the couple purchased the building in Charleston which had been a community laundromat for over ten years.

“It’s a good investment and they can be really cool community builders too, so we went for it,” Carpenter explained.

Coin Laundry Association data reports that laundromats earn a collective $5 billion each year, showing that their popularity is far from passed.

After taking charge of the community laundromat, the couple ran it as it was for a few months, setting about to learn more about the businesses and the community.

“We wanted to learn about the community and figure out what the people that use it like about it, what was a need, what was most important to fix up and what we should focus on,” said Carpenter.

In January 2023, they started fixing up the laundromat to create their dream community space.

“The first thing we wanted to do was just get rid of a lot of old stuff that had been left there,” said Carpenter. “Stuff had been abandoned and accumulated over the years, so we cleared all of that out and even just the cleaning made a real difference.”

Armed with a mood board of ideas, the couple took inspiration from classic laundromats and facilities around the world: “I took a lot of inspiration from places in Tokyo or Amsterdam,” Carpenter said. “They have these amazing laundromats that are so beautifully designed. You don’t see as much of that here and we wanted to create a comfortable space.”

 Reynolds Laundromat in Charleston before the renovation.

As they started the renovation, fixing up machines and replacing tired décor, Carpenter started to document the process on TikTok, from picking out the perfect colors for walls and floors to painting the retro machines in a bold and fun green that really stands out.

Along the way, they had help from various members of the community, including a nearby painter-decorator and the previous owner of the laundromat who helped them get to grips with the ins and outs of the old machines.

While keeping many of the original features, the couple also added some updated elements to the space including a fully stocked vending machine and QR-code-operated machines to make the washing process easier. That also meant they could “earn money without needing to be there.”

Above all, the couple wanted to curate a space that the community could enjoy and make the most of.

“There’s so many hours spent there, so it felt really important to make the space comfortable, clean and safe,” said Carpenter. “There is the functional aspect of needing to do laundry, but also like families are spending time there—moms are tired and they’re waiting and you want to give them a comfy couch to sit on instead of a broken bench. We want to give kids something to do, somewhere to play.”

Both working full time, the couple kept on the laundromat’s one original employee and were all set for their grand re-launch last weekend.

To make the re-launch extra special, they partnered with the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project, a local charity that keeps and stocks publicly accessible “blessing boxes” around the Lowcountry that are filled with non-perishable food items, toiletries, baby supplies and other items that might help a person in need.

As well as the boxes, the team at Lowcountry Blessing Box organizes free laundry days for the community—something that Carpenter jumped at the chance to get involved with

“They’re incredible,” she said. “They get donations of quarters and bring a bunch of them to the laundromat so that the community can come and do laundry all day for free. It was so, so fun to work with them—they’re community staples.”

People from the local community came to do their laundry, bring food, have fun and give the new owners a chance to see just how much potential their project has.

 Laundromat owners Jon and Erin with attendant Steve.

“We don’t have any real monetary goals—we want to have a good business but we really care about the people,” said Carpenter. “We’ve spent so much time with them in the past few months and learned just how many people spend time there every day.”

In the future, the couple plan to offer a drop-off and delivery laundry service as another income stream and to help keep prices in the laundromat low for the community.

“I think we just really want to listen to what the people want and need,” said Carpenter. “I want to do more free laundry days and community serving events, whatever that may be.”

Visit Reynolds Laundromat, LLC: located at 2017 Reynolds Ave, Charleston, SC 29405.

Source: Newsweek