By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
What about other urban schools, which presumably operate under the same government guidelines, etc.? At Lowell High in San Francisco, the report card is a fascinating document tailored to the school’s rich history and achievements. Henry M. Gunn High of Palo Alto issues a detailed formal report to the city.
Now, Gunn and Lowell are arguably the best public college-prep schools in the state. So, is there any connection between a district that blows off a school-reform measure with meaningless schooleaucratese and lousy education? Just asking.
Echo Park firefighters are salivating at the prospect of a Starbucks coffee shop opening next door at the Sunset Boulevard–Alvarado Street branch of Lucy’s LaundryMart, a new superchain of coin-operated wash-and-dries that is sweeping Southern California. The brainchild of Torrance businessman Bill Cunningham, who broke off from PW West laundries in 1995 to start his own business, Lucy’s aims to be the McDonald’s of scrubberies by offering Subway-restaurant sandwiches, check-cashing services and a mail center along with your wash-and-dry.
But after an initial burst of enthusiasm from the neighborhood, Lucy’s spanking-new cement-block building stood three-quarters empty last Saturday. Three blocks away, Los Lavaderos — a 9-year-old laundry whose only amenities are friendly employees and counter space where harried mothers prop children in front of Spanish-language cartoons — was bustling. Patron Sonia Arana, 30, said she would rather spend an extra 10 minutes in freeway time to get to Los Lavaderos than walk to her neighborhood Lucy’s.
"I don’t like Lucy’s," she said as she shook her head, folding her freshly laundered clothing on a dryer top. "The people there are mean. At this place, when you are ready to leave, they help you and keep an eye on your kids. Shopping and coffee don’t have anything to do with laundry."
Could Echo Park be alone in bucking the supersuds trend? Brian Wallace, executive director of the Coin Laundry Association, a national trade organization, says chains like Lucy’s are on the fast track to revolutionizing the $3.5-billion-to-$5-billion laundry industry, which traditionally has been a mom-and-pop affair. With 13 stores up and 21 to go next year, Lucy’s is at the head of the pack. Cunningham’s "vision was to create the Blockbuster of the laundry business," said Lucy’s senior vice president of business development, Robert Pardo.
Los Lavaderos employee Eric admits that business plummeted 90 percent when Lucy’s first opened, but says his patrons came running back. "Our repeat customers came back because some said that Lucy’s machines didn’t provide enough water. So the clothes were still soapy," he said, pausing to help a customer carry her load to the parking lot.
"It is slower in the afternoons," assistant manager Sandy Magana explained about Lucy’s weekend lull. Magana said more than 250 people walk through the doors on a weekend day, spending $1,300 in $2 wash-and-dry "smart cards" and an additional $450 at the snack bar. Architect Lelia Scheu, a recent L.A. transplant, likes the food and other services. "At least you have something to do," she said. But farther down Sunset Boulevard, L.A. Wash customers also turned their noses up at Lucy’s. "There is too much stuff going on over there," said Karla Godoy, who is currently unemployed. "Whatever money you have left, you will end up wasting it on one of the other businesses. "—Christine Pelisek