While doing your laundry may seem pretty straightforward, one laundromat in Brooklyn, New York is redefining the experience. Celsious, the first eco-friendly laundromat in the state, was founded by sisters Corinna and Theresa Williams.
"We're not the typical laundromat," Corinna tells Bustle in a new Small Business Salutes video, "What Doing Laundry In New York City Looks Like During A Pandemic." Instead, the Williams sisters refer to Celsious as a "premium sustainable garment care provider," which they created to improve the big-city laundry experience.
With the use of smart technology, Celsious' washers and dryers save between 30-40% of water and gas — a feature, the sisters say that you can't find any other laundromat in the city.
But aside from providing a place where you could do your laundry, the Williams sisters made Celsious into a community hub where they hosted events and operated a cafe. But when the pandemic hit, that had to change. "We're just really really conscious of providing a beautiful welcoming space, but we had to aggressively pivot," Theresa says.
Laundry is an essential service, so Celsious was able to stay open when coronavirus hit — but they had to make major changes. To ensure safety, the Williams sisters turned the self-service laundromat into a drop-off only establishment.
A healthcare worker within their community helped them find the best procedures possible to stay safe while still delivering their services. The result is completely contactless. The sisters had a 10-foot wall built between the laundromat and the drop-off portion, so customers come in, weigh their laundry, drop it off, and leave.
"For the laundry processing, that's where we really suit up," Theresa says. Everyone handling the laundry wears overalls, gloves, large respirator masks, and goggles. And even though the staff handles about 120 bags of laundry a day, they make sure to either wash their hands or change their gloves between every load.
Once Celsious was ready to have their staff back, they reminded them to keep their customers in mind, as some of them may not have spoken to anyone else all day or even all week. "Just a two or three minute conversation with someone ... it's maybe even more important than it was before," Theresa says.
Despite being prepared, amping up their safety protocols, and trying to keep a positive attitude, the Williams sisters have struggled adjusting to state-mandated reduced hours. "This has just felt like drowning," Theresa says. But the uncertainty and stress did not stop them from trying to find more ways to keep their community connected.
They created a pay-it-forward program where financially-struggling customers can have their laundry paid for by other members of the community. All they have to say is "I could use some love," and they can have their laundry taken care of.
"It's always been so much more than laundry," Theresa says. "Being able to build new communities, that's really inspiring to me,"
We are shining a spotlight on some of the millions of small businesses now challenged by COVID-19. This is part of an ongoing commitment our parent company, Bustle Digital Group, is making to support small businesses throughout the entire month of May. Tell us about your favorite small business on social media using #SmallBusinessSalutes.