Essential Workers: Laundromat

Kayla Renie/The Herald
Amanda Bell of Jasper, co-owner and supervisor of Waschsalon, poses for a portrait inside the laundromat in Jasper on Thursday. As an essential business, Bell says they've felt more incentive to protect their employees and customers, and are following health and safety guidelines in order to do what's best for their community and business.

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

Teresa Kendall was surprised when she heard Waschsalon would stay open, as many businesses have closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the retired teacher is thankful the business is open, because of how many people who depend on the laundromat.

“It’s as essential as going to the grocery,” Kendall said.

She can do laundry at home, but the Jasper laundromat makes life so much easier for her. The equipment at home isn’t compatible with the sheets for her king-sized bed.

The fact she always sees a car at the laundromat is a testament to how important laundry is to the community.

“I’ve been in Jasper for a little over two years. I have lived in a town before, a small town, where there was no laundromat, and at that point, you’re dependent on friends or family members taking all of your laundry and going to their house,” Kendall said. “If you have lots of laundry, one load at a time in the washer or dryer, it can take you the entire day to do a week’s worth of laundry.”

Lois Andrews did her happy dance when she found out laundromats would stay open during the virus outbreak. She’s been going to the Waschsalon ever since it first opened. She can afford a washer and dryer, but doesn’t mind going to the laundromat. She likes how everything can be done in a short amount of time.

Waschsalon co-owner and supervisor Amanda Bell wondered whether or not she’d have to close the business’ doors as the COVID-19 crisis swept the globe. She called the Dubois County Health Department to inquire if her business is essential, and she was told to keep operating, because it is.

“I’m thankful that we can continue serving the community and that we can keep our employees safe and have a comfortable ... clean atmosphere for the customers,” Bell said.

Waschsalon is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Bell believes laundromats are essential because of the cleanliness, and added that not everybody has a washer and dryer at their disposal.

However, this time brings about a lot of adjustment, and employees at Waschsalon are no different. Workers come in early, clean what needs to be cleaned and don’t have to stay any longer. They wear gloves and masks while cleaning, and customers are asked to sport masks as well. Employees do their usual daily cleaning, such as the vents on the dryers and the bathrooms, but Bell noted the laundromat is taking extra steps to keep the place tidy at this time.

“We take Lysol wipes and we wipe down all the handles on the dryers and the washing machines, the kiosks, the vending machine,” she said. “We also wipe, along with the handles, we wipe down the buttons that people have to push on the washers and dryers.”

Business has slowed down. The laundromat got rid of the magazines for people to read because they felt those led to the spread of germs. Chairs are movable, and not connected, in an effort to promote social distancing. They also stopped their wash-and-fold service, even before a COVID-19 case was confirmed in the county.

Bell doesn’t know when things may return to normal, and isn’t sure if they ever will. She misses not being able to be around customers and talk to them without having to wear a mask. She is currently taking things day by day in hopes that her employees stay healthy and that Waschsalon can keep serving people.




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