By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
The closeness of Darryl and Fylynne Crawford is inspiring, for not only do they own the largest African American Laundromat in Hyde Park, but they’ve put their heads together and are digitalizing their business including drop-off kiosks, text-ready service and social media.
Both were born on the South Side of Chicago where they attended Lindblom High School. Mr. Crawford attended the University of Illinois at Chicago majoring in engineering and she went to DePaul majoring in business.
Twenty-years later, they met on the Metra train, and they’ve been inseparable ever since. The Crawford’s have been married for 14-years and have two children and are grandparents of two.
Before buying the Laundromat, located inside the 53-year-old Kimbark Plaza Mall, the Crawfords were real estate investors, but in 2007 they cashed in their assets and purchased the Laundromat.
“We try to entertain our customers with music and various programing. We know laundry is a drudgery task nobody likes to do and that is why we try to make it as pleasant as possible,” he said. “We hire people from the neighborhood their motto is: “Your dirty laundry IS our business.”
We try to entertain our customers with music and various programming,” Mr. Crawford.
Owning a laundromat in 2016 is fiscally challenging. Because they are located near the University of Chicago, the Crawford’s said many students use the school’s laundromat facilities, many homes and apartment buildings already have washers and dryers but it’s the sharp rise in the cost of water that creates the greatest challenge.
“Our water bill has tripled over the last three years,” said Mr. Crawford. “We feel it more because we have 57 washers and 34 dryers, and all this equipment works on gas, electricity and water,” he said. In order to stay afloat, Mrs. Crawford said, “It’s a delicate balance.”
“When we bought the place, a lot of the equipment was old and aging. We replaced two-thirds of the washers and after we had the fire two years ago (which caused them to close for six months), we replaced all of the dryers,” he explained. They reopened in June of 2014.
Kimbark Laundry offers: a self-service laundry and has a wash and fold service, dry cleaning service, pick up and delivery service, and they have created a mobile App for Smart phones which customers can get through the App Store or Google Play. It enables their customers to check the status of their order and pay their bills.
Their diverse clientele includes people from all over the world, and Kimbark Laundry takes great pride in providing entertainment and educational activities for their clients. They have two 42-inch flat-screen TVs.
On Friday nights, they play dusties all night long. In fact, the late, iconic Richard Pegue use to come on Friday nights to play his music “We called it ‘Dancing With The Detergent,’ He worked with us almost up until the day he died,” she recalled.
On Sundays they show sports over their cable channels, and during campaign season, they do voter registration. “We have deputy registrars come in to register our customers,” Mrs. Crawford said. “We believe in giving back to the community and getting to know our neighbors.”
The Crawfords also have a “Wash and Read” program where volunteers like Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Black Star CEO Phil Jackson, singer Maggie Brown, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25th) and others read books to the children.
“We’re here to serve the community,” Mrs. Crawford said. “We also have a laundry blog, ‘Lynne, The Laundry Lady,’ who gives laundry tips to her followers.”