John Pinnok’s East Baltimore laundromat, Laundry City. (Courtesy Photo)
Baltimore – John Pinnok’s East Baltimore laundromat, Laundry City, is more than just a place to wash your clothes. Customers can also apply for jobs in the facility’s quiet room, let their children play in the kid’s play area, sip coffee in the adult lounge or surf the web using the free wi-fi.
It’s all part of Pinnok’s plan to bring a bit of luxury to a part of the city that does not always get it.
“During my research, I looked at all sides of Baltimore. When I came over here, I realized with the dense population that a laundromat would do very well,” Pinnok said,” in an interview with the AFRO.
He examined some of the existing laundromats in the area and saw that many were cramped and run down. He said many had old, dilapidated machines and no air conditioning.
John Pinnok, owner, Laundry City . (Photo by Lisa Snowden-McCray)
“It seemed to me that the operators kind of took the customer for granted,” he said. “The conditions were perfect for somebody to come and put a nice facility in, where people could enjoy the laundry experience while taking the chore element out of it.”
Pinnok opened his first laundromat at 4623 Bowleys Lane, just three blocks away from his current place on Moravia Road. He says they were so successful that they quickly outgrew the place. The new location is 10,000 square feet, which Pinnok says makes it the largest laundromat in the state and the third largest in the country. They also have almost 300 machines, so that customers never have to wait.
“This kind of facility you normally would find in a very high income, upscale neighborhood –the hardwood floor, the granite. People stay away from making this kind of investment in the inner city. We decided that we were going to show the community that we believe that they like nice things too,” Pinnok said.
“We actually pride ourselves in customer service,” said manager Thelma Washington. “If you walk in the door and you need help, we can see that you need help. The attendants are usually right in front.”
Washington says she has never managed a laundromat before, but she loves it.
“It’s working with the people, being able to give back to the community. We have people in the area who actually felt that there was nothing here for them to look forward to as far as having a nice clean place,” she said. “When we first started, people were like ‘why would you put a place like this in this neighborhood?’”
She said that children from the community even come in to use the quiet area to do their homework.
“We actually have people that say “can we sleep here? Can I take the children’s area home. The people are grateful. A lot of them bring their friends with them.”
For Pinnok, the Laundromat is about more than just running a successful business. It is about forging ties to the community. “Nothing brings me more joy than when a customer comes to me and says thank you for giving us such a nice facility,” said Pinnok. “Although I hear it just about 365 days a year, it never gets old.”