When I spotted Laundré in the Mission District in San Francisco, I was intrigued by the accent aigu (é) in its name.
A closer look at the large blue building located on the corner of 20th and Mission Streets revealed that Laundré is a portmanteau, or a made-up word using the combination of the words, “laundromat” and “café” to name the hybrid establishment.
However, it’s not the first to combine laundry and food and/or drink in the world, not even the first in San Francisco. A few years ago, BrainWash in San Francisco closed after having been open since 1989. In addition, there have been laundrobars in cities, like Asheville, North Carolina; New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and in Copenhagen, Reykjavik, Hamburg, Berlin, Antwerp, and Ghent.
I had neither a caffeine craving nor a load of laundry to wash on the day I stumbled upon Laundré, but I decided to visit and take a load off. I admired the featured wall art created by a local artist and I ordered a cappuccino made with a third wave coffee by Sightglass Coffee. I also took a sip of my daughter’s lavender spritzer, which she thought tasted like soap. I figured it was in keeping with the laundromat theme! We later decided it was an acquired taste.
Overall, I like the concept: coffee shop on one side and a laundromat down the hall. Laundré’s founder reportedly set out to create a welcoming space for people to gather and to make laundry less of a chore.
However, I didn’t see people on the laundry side sipping a drink from the café while their clothes tumbled in the washers and dryers.
Conversely, the people sitting in the café didn’t appear to be waiting for any laundry. With their faces aglow with light from their MacBook screens, they seemed to be engrossed in their individual worlds.
As a Francophile, I was delighted to see a new business that seemed French-inspired. But it’s in the Mission District, a community of small businesses owned and operated by mostly immigrant families from Spanish-speaking or Asian countries, so something about it didn’t feel right to me.
In the 80s, I remember this area was filled mainly with various fruit stands, Mexican taquerías, Salvadoran pupuserías, shops selling formal wear, like quinceañera gowns; Chinese wholesale outlets, and stores providing money remittance services or Filipino balikbayan boxes.
They’re mostly still there, but it would’ve been nice to see Laundré acknowledge the community they’re in. For starters, they could have a small multilingual sign on the front doors. Wouldn’t that be a welcome change?