Ames Launderette


In the spring of 1947, when the walls of the new building at 621 Main street were going up, Jay and Bea Hutchison could see a dream coming true.  They had reasoned…in their dreams…that the post war period would find many residents, new and old, without home laundry facilities.  Such lack of facilities would be caused by two shortages.  1. the shortage of the home laundry equipment to buy and 2. the shortage of cash, in some cases, with which to buy if it were available.

The Hutchisons’ dreams also carried them into time and motion studies.  Housewives, on the average, were spending at least a half day a week at their washing machines…if they had one…to say nothing of the hard work it is to hang clothes to dry.  Would it be possible to develop a service that would enable a housewife to do ALL her washing and drying in an hour’s time.  And…if it could be…would she be willing to pay a reasonable price for that service and time saving?

With all of their dream questions answered to their satisfaction, and an arrangement made with the makers of the Bendix automatic home washers, they “broke ground” for their new building and the Launderette was born…to be open for business in June of 1947.

While the builders were laboring on the building, Jay was pushing his pencil.  The average life of an automatic washer is estimated at 7 years.  That fact went down on page one of his “thinking paper.”

After using both sides of many pages of paper he came up with the answer that the average housewife could use his services forever and save herself money, to say nothing of the time and labor saved.  “Sometimes its hard to sell that idea to the housewife,” Jay says, “but it’s true, nevertheless.”

Self-service was the only service offered at first.  A customer could come in with her weekly wash, and use as many machines as she had batches of clothes.  (Soaps, bleaches and bluing supplies are furnished by Launderette, all the customer furnishes is the dirty clothes.)  She could put her wash in the machines, then have a half hour for errands.  After the washing is done, if she wants them machine dried she moves them to the dryers where they are tumble-dried in 20 to 30 minutes, and she is on her way…her washing and drying all done with only an hour’s time invested.

Some customers started asking…”Could we drop our bundles off, you wash them, and we’ll pick them up later?” thus a new service was added…called “Drop Service,” or regular laundry service.  Now, new services have been added so that a customer can get most any combination.  Wash your clothes at home…they’ll dry them for you, or you can come and dry them yourself.  Do your washing at the Launderette, and dry them at home.  They also have a complete shirt laundry service using professional finishers to iron them.  If you plan to change your color scheme or faded items, their dyeing service is complete and offers up to 75 different colors and shades.  They also serve as a downtown pick-up station for the College Cleaners, thereby offering a dry-cleaning service.

The equipment required for such an operation is staggering.  The Launderette has 21 Bendix washers for the do-it-yourself customers.  Hutchison does his own repair and maintenance work.  They have four 25-pound capacity Cook Washettes, stainless steel washers for their dyeing and drop bundle service.  Five extractors and six large Huebsch gas heated dryers.  Water is heated to the proper laundry temperature of 180 degrees in two heaters offering a 1,700 gallon per hour capacity.

The newest service now being added is an off-hour depository for customers who bring the laundry before the Launderette is opened.  Individual bins have been constructed on the west side of the building, and when completed a customer can deposit his bundle in a bin, lock it, then members of the Launderette staff will take over from there.  Open hours are 8 a. m. to 5:30 p. m. daily except Sundays and Wednesdays.  Wednesdays they are open until 12:30 p. m.