ITALIAN TALENT — Croissants and smiles at the Washing Cafè between one drying cycle and another



During its first one and a half year, this laundry-bar based in Milan managed to acquire many various loyal clients: professional freelance workers, pensioners, five o’clock tea time group of friends, employees, bed and breakfast guests, Chinese families, etc. Such are the results of the happy intuition of a husband and wife, who decided to experiment a new self-service laundry model in Italy, extremely successful abroad. Where the time spent on waiting for the clean linen becomes an occasion for relaxation, meetings and reading


There is a self-service and a selfservice.
And there is a tumble dryer and a tumble dryer.
While looking for signs of the laundry market changing, we came across two important lessons that are linked one to another, and that originate from the Washing Cafè laundry in Lomazzo 29 Street, in the very heart of Milan.
Come inside and you won’t really know whether it is a cafe, as the bar and the tables in front of you suggest, or a coin-op as you look at the working washing machines to your left. The presence of Caterina supports the second hypothesis.
The elderly woman comes here every week to wash her bed sheets.
She is enchanted by the beautiful smell of the sheets when she takes  them out from the dryer. There are also young people reading a thriller and sipping their cappuccinos, and a group of employees who came by during their morning break.
The answer to our question comes from a beautiful smile of Barbara Antuoni, who just served another coffee and is now telling us about the beginning of this business. “I used to go to a coin-op in my small hometown, Bollate. It was run by an elderly lady. It was near my house and allowed me to wash a great load of linen within an hour. Yet, I felt that something was missing in there. The place was great, painted pink, always well taken care of so that the clients could feel at home.
So, when the moment of starting the business came…”.
In order to catch up with the decisive passage of the story, it is  necessary to introduce Barbara’s husband, Giampiero Tarullo, a creative advert publisher, who was away on business when we came to visit the laundry. “What happened was that, when we got a small capital to invest – continues the laundry-bar owner – Giampiero, remembering my hometown stories, had no doubts about opening a small self-service laundry.

We wanted it to be different from any other laundry. The place we had in mind would be cosy, a small family run  place where one can sit and drink something, and talk to others for a while … So here we are, a year and half later running the place”-.

A great year and a half for the Washing Cafè. It has been designed  following northern European models.
“Imagine that, e.g. in London there are washing machines placed under the bar. We have seen other, similar solutions in the Netherlands – the owner says – so we thought it would be right to try opening one of  these also in Italy”. The result translates to an efficient and attractive “hybrid” model where the laundry, with a separate entrance, is open seven days per week with the opening hours from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., while the bar is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the closing day is on

The facts proved that the creators of this unusual place were right. There also have been some positive effects on their family life.
Barbara left her previous job. She used to work as a shop assistant at a big shopping mall where she worked every day. The couple can now spend more time with their  children, Mirko and Noemi, who are 9 and 7 years old. They gave their children traditional names, not copied from popular tabloids, which shows their sensibility and curiosity for the new that combines with the idea of proper roots: a crucial combination in Italy of year 2017, where we witness the craze for TV reality shows and smart phones. However, on the other hand, the widespread interest in sharing spaces and smiling to people face to face remembers us how it used to be in Milan cafes, e.g. in the artistic Brera district or along the Naviglio, in the area of cafes with a slight north European look.
It all proves that there is a self-service and a self-service, as we wrote in the beginning of this article. Consequently, there is a tumble dryer and a tumble dryer. The first name goes for the way a machine works, the second to fruit-vegetable freshly squeezed juice. They obviously co-exist here. The latter one helps us introduce Fabio, who comes here to have his fresh ginger and fennel juice that, as he said it “qualifies the healthy line of the cafe”.
Fabio, who runs ad advert agency in the area, is one of the many loyal clients of the Washing Cafè. Just like Mrs. Caterina that we met before, happy to take her clean and scented bed sheets home. “And many others who, while waiting for their shirts to be washed, have lunch during a break at work – Barbara adds– or a group of women who, between one and another glass of fresh juice, have become friends to the point that they fix their weekly appointments here at the tea time. Many foreigners come here too. The B&B they are staying at directs them to us should they need to wash anything. Finally, also  the Chinese community of the area
rely on us every now and then in case they need to wash a jumper or two”.
The word of mouth has undoubtedly  helped the number of clients grow steadily and continuously. It actually proves that in our technological and hectic world of today, the main “demand” is all about human  relationships and warmth. It seems to be so urgent that even a self-service laundry can satisfy it impeccably. With smiles and sips of  coffee while the juice extractor produces another glass of juice. •

Detergo Magazine – Dicembre 2017