It’s a Saturday at Lafayette Laundry on Detroit’s near Eastside, and that means Pat Cunningham has brought in donuts for her customers. Not just any donuts, but organic donuts from Dilla’s Delights. It’s just one of the many ways Cunningham and her business partner Kelly Corbett contribute to this community near Lafayette and St. Aubin.
In fact, being a positive partner in their community is the driving force behind Lafayette Laundry. Cunningham and Corbett are bound by their love of Detroit and compelled by their mission “to do the next right thing.”
A mission like that manifests itself in many ways, but most notably in who they choose to employ. They hire people from the local neighborhood whom may have had trouble finding employment in the past. According to Cunningham, “We offer hope and we offer opportunity.” She is quick to point out none of these decisions are ever at the cost of customer service; nothing comes before customer experience. The laundry has a twenty-two page policy manual that covers every possible scenario and employees go through a 3 hour orientation.
Cunningham and Corbett got into the “suds business” somewhat by chance. When they were retired, they started thinking about opening a business and were toying with the idea of a coffee shop. However, when their dog Lucki got sick (all over the bed) it required a trip to the local laundromat. What they found was dingy and a seemingly unwelcoming place where customers kept to themselves and tried to spend as little time there as possible. They saw many ways that they thought they could do it better, and that’s when the idea was formulated.
When it came time to select a location, Detroit just made sense. Both Cunningham and Corbett grew up in Detroit, so coming back to the city felt like a homecoming. It’s been a year and a half since they opened for business, and they know they made the right choice. “We put everything we had into this business, and we are fiercely loyal to this community.”
That dedication shows. Lafayette Laundry is more than just a place to wash your clothes, it’s a place to hangout. Customers chat with one another as they wait, the atmosphere is upbeat and friendly, there is laughter and camaraderie, and tons of inside jokes. Cunningham explains, “Everyone’s got their guard up out there, but that falls away when they come in here.” Perhaps it’s the free donuts, meticulously clean facility, or impeccably well-trained staff? However, maybe it boils down to one simple philosophy, “this community deserves a nice place to do their laundry.”
Do you know an awesome Detroiter whose love of the community shines through? If so, we want to talk to them!