People who patronize Cambria’s Laundromat can take heart: Some of the rusty, unsightly washing machines and plentiful “out of service” signs soon will be gone there as 10 of the smaller units are replaced with new, larger commercial equipment, according to Norma Casas, who owns the business with husband Eliseo Casas.
She said Tuesday, Aug. 8, that her husband expects to begin installing soon the new 30-pound-capacity, commercial Wascomat washers. Casas said they expect to replace the other 10 smaller washers by the end of the year.
The condition of the facility has long been the topic of complaints to the business owners, Cambria Chamber of Commerce representatives and the Cambria Community Services District (CCSD). Unhappy customers have posted their complaints on various social media sites.
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In 2012, CCSD paid the business owners $30,007 so the couple could install new, 18-pound-load, Maytag high-efficiency machines in place of elderly water-hogging machines. The Laundromat’s four 30-pound-load washers weren’t replaced.
At the time, district board President Mike Thompson said the agreement was good business, because of the water savings and because for a community, “a clean and well-functioning, visitor-serving Laundromat is almost as important as clean and attractive public restrooms.”
Under the legal agreement with the district, the machines were to be kept in good condition, according to customers and various officials.
District General Manager Jerry Gruber said Monday, Aug. 7, said Monday, Aug. 7, that the five-year agreement with the Casases expires Dec. 10, and won’t be renewed.
Gruber said he cannot release specific billing information for the account, because those records are confidential for all customers.
However, in comparing the first three billing periods of 2012, before the new machines were installed, with the first three billing periods of 2017, he said, the Laundromat used 35.79 percent less water in the latter.
The mechanic could come to fix them today, and they’d break again tomorrow.
Norma Casas, owner, on the state of current machines at Cambria’s Laundromat
A variety of factors undoubtedly contributed to that drop in water usage, including the water-conserving technology of the machines, the number of washers that were out of service (for instance, about half of them on Aug. 4), and a reduction in laundry-washing business from tourists because there are likely fewer campers, RVers and other travelers due to the prolonged, landslide-caused closure of Highway 1 between Ragged Point and Big Sur.
Others in the Laundromat’s customer base are residents who don’t have laundry facilities at home or who want to wash outsized items, such as comforters, in a larger washer. Homeless people also rely on the Laundromat. “I’m happy they have a place to do their laundry,” Gruber added.
Another issue, according to Gruber and CCSD Board President Amanda Rice, has been the lack of an attendant at the Laundromat, someone to “monitor the amount of laundry in a load and making sure people are following the procedure,” he said.
In addition, such an employee could take in “fluff-and-fold” laundry that the attendant would wash, dry and fold, which could provide additional income for the business.
Mary Ann Carson, executive director of the chamber, said Tuesday that officials there, especially Board President Mel McColloch, “have been working diligently with the Laundromat owners, trying to get them to improve their signage, service and replace the machines,” especially those that were obviously beyond being fixable.
Casas said the machines just didn’t stand up to the heavy commercial use, and even with frequent repairs, it was hard to keep them all in operational condition. “The mechanic could come to fix them today, and they’d break again tomorrow,” which happened often.
In an Aug. 2 letter to the district, Casas asked for permission to install new machines that would handle 30-pound loads. “The current washing machines have given us and the community many problems,” she wrote, “and we have received many complaints from people in town who are asking us for bigger machines.”
Gruber said Casas told him people have been cramming too much laundry into machines not designed to handle those loads, which makes the equipment break down more often.
In an Aug. 7 email to board members and others about the issue, he said, “CCSD does not need to grant approval to purchase new machines.” However, those washers must meet the district’s water-conservation requirements.
“Norma stated that she has lost a lot of business, and understands how frustrated the community is over the broken machines,” Gruber wrote. He said he’d continue to monitor the progress at the Laundromat.
Casas estimates the facility had lost about 90 percent of its clients to other, out-of-town Laundromats. “They’re starting to come back,” now that the new machines are coming, she said. “They say they’re very happy” that change is coming, and they would rather do their laundry in town.