Laundromat makes splash with music, coffee - East Valley Tribune: Business

Laundromat makes splash with music, coffee

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Posted: Monday, April 4, 2011 4:00 am | Updated: 4:25 pm, Mon Apr 4, 2011.

PRESCOTT — Murals atop the entrance to Splash Laundry depict a pier and coffee bar, and its amenities indoors and outdoors are without peer.

Splash features a coffee bar, a small play area for children, wireless access, a community garden and houseplants, and offers live music Saturday afternoons.

It offers the amenities in addition to 23 washing machines and 11 driers, dry-cleaning, ironing, alterations and a commercial laundry service for camps, co-owner Rhonda Babbitt said.

Keeping with the theme, Babbitt and business partner Ken Simeral display a surfboard on a wall; the glass front shows designs of seven surfboards.

"I wanted everybody to be comfortable and enjoy it," Babbitt said on a recent afternoon as she darted around the building at North Willow Street. She added she has plans this summer for a sandlot where children can play.

An inscription on the entrance states, "We won't hang you out to dry. Just your clothes."

Babbitt, a lifelong Prescott resident and 1978 graduate of Prescott High School, said she decided to revive the shuttered laundry after her washing machine broke down during the summer of 2008.

She spent the next several weeks visiting nearby laundries, and was not happy with her experiences, according to her brochure for the business.

Babbitt, 51, found out about the availability of the building that opened as laundry more than 50 years ago, and had been condemned.

She added landlord J.T. Purgis planned to convert the 3,200-square-foot building into a warehouse.

She called Simeral, who said he agreed to become her business partner.

Simeral, land and minerals team leader for the Prescott National Forest, said he agreed to in part because his federal government retirement plan was tanking in value during the recession.

The recession made the business venture potentially risky, Babbitt acknowledged.

"This is not something people do with brains," she said in jest.

Babbitt said she replaced an aging boiler, which required removing a wall.

Overall, transforming an old building into a family- and eco-friendly laundry required a lot of investment, Babbitt said.

"It never ends," she said. "You always fix and replace stuff."

Babbitt works there in addition to owning a spa, Body and Sole, with business partner Tammy Thien for eight years.

"We both work like 55 to 60 hours a week," Babbitt said.

Simeral, 58, of Prescott commented, "Splash has been an adventure. We have made a lot of friends and met interesting people."

Customer Dave Perez, an architect, said the pier theme reminded him of the California coast. He earned a degree in economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

He said he plays guitar and also visits Splash to jam with Simeral and other musicians.

Splash, he said, is "just kind of a laid-back place. The Wi-Fi is cool. I can pull up my documents" on the laptop.

Outside, Maggie Dewar, best known as a member of the Mural Mice, tended the community garden, which is on the sides and back of the building. She said she began planting vegetables three weeks ago, and uses horse manure as a fertilizer.

"They are just starting to sprout," Dewar said before riding off on a bicycle.

Splash is sprouting as well.

Babbitt said she enjoys "everything" about the business.

"It's real," she said. "You get to help people. This is nice. This is a good thing. You get to help good people."

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