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Clean Livin’

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Washing Well owner David Wilson met me at his laundromat on Locust and Oakland to give a short history and grand tour of his esteemed establishment. Large windows front and back provide a bright, open space even on the darkest of laundry days, and the abundance of light and the moisture from wet clothes keep hanging plants green and happy. David bought his building at 1719 E. Locust 34 years ago. Three tenants occupied the space — a small, bankrupt laundromat on the alley, a catering shop in the middle, and Mr. Yee’s Riverside Hand Laundry on the east. David rebuilt the laundromat which grew into the other spaces as each tenant left. “I have customers who’ve been coming here for fifteen, twenty years,” David says. He’s proud of his service — free parking out back; a choice of 82 washers and dryers (some big enough for 50 pounds of dirty laundry); a color TV and snacks, all in a comfortable space. Years ago David was known as the Laundry Man. Mothers came in with their kids, and they’d watch him fill the vending machines. “Go ask your mother if you can have a soda,” he’d say. Or, “Let’s fill the candy machine.” They’d hold the box and hand David candy bars one at a time and he thanks them with a sweet treat when they finished. One mother came every week with her laundry basket tied to her bicycle seat. Her little boy watched David fix equipment. He explained, “He’d be down on the floor with me, and I’d show him how to do stuff.” Years later David’s truck broke down in the inner city. He said, “I had my head under the hood without a clue, when this guy stops to ask if he can help. He fixes my problem, and I try to pay him. ‘No, no, no,’ he says to me. ‘Thank you, but my mother used to do her wash at your laundromat. You always let me watch you fix the machines, and now I work as a mechanic!'” David beams. “I love it. That’s what life’s all about.” Good service can bring a variety of rewards. Thirty-four years and counting.
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