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Ripley Laundromat serves residents, tourists

June 15, 2017
By Charles Erickson - , Westfield Republican

RIPLEY - The westernmost self-service laundry on U.S. Route 20 before the Pennsylvania line is in a little building with a brick face and a strange sign.

Ripley Laundromat is owned by Alton and Cindy Crossman. On a rainy Friday morning recently, as a single customer waited for two loads of laundry to dry, Alton Crossman discussed business conditions.

"It's slow here. It's a small town," he said. "They don't have the numbers of people."

Article Photos

Photo by Charles Erickson
Alton Crossman is pictured inside the Ripley Laundromat, which he owns with his wife, Cindy. The Crossmans bought the small business in 2000 and have added some new washers and dryers, but older equipment also remains in service.

The customer, a young man wearing headphones, stared out a front window at the highway.

Ripley Laundromat, which had an adjoining car wash until a few years ago, is announced by a small sign over the entrance that reads Launderama.

The Crossmans bought the property in 2000. Alton Crossman is unsure of its history, but remembers the establishment from when he moved to Ripley in 1980. Cindy Crossman remembers it being open in the 1970s.

"Those dryers used to be a dime when my wife came in here," Alton Crossman said, pointing to some older units in a corner having twist dials instead of digital displays but now configured to run on quarters.

In the early 1960s, the Zeolux Corp. of New York City ran advertisements in magazines to attract investors for their Launderama coin-opearted, fully-automatic laundry stores.

One of the ads, from 1960, read: "Launderamas are the perfect 'second' business for men in all salary brackets."

Alton Crossman has no idea if his Ripley laundry was ever affiliated with the Launderama/Zeolux concept, of if a previous owner bought a Launderama sign on the cheap for installation at 134 West Main Rd.

But the Crossmans did purchase the laundry as way to accentuate their incomes. Cindy Crossman has a full-time job, while Alton Crossman is a grape farmer. He also handles most maintenance at the laundry.

"I used to work on cars," Alton Crossman said. "I can fix most of the problems in here. It costs me $200 to get somebody to walk in the door to repair, because they have to come from Buffalo or Pittsburgh."

Summer is the busiest season at the laundry, according to the owners. That is when many campers staying locally bring their clothes for washing and drying. During dry summers, local people with wells come in to use the Ripley Laundromat because it has municipal water.

Apartment dwellers are 12-month customers.

"Business varies," Alton Crossman said. "There are days in the summer when all the machines are in use, and people are waiting with baskets until one opens. And other days, we get one or two people, the whole day."

Ripley Laundromat has 20 washers: 14 Econ-O top-loaders and a mixture of Huebsch and Maytag front-loaders, along with 18 dryers. The top-load washers cost $1.50 to operate, while the others are $2. All dryers run on segments of time purchased for 25 cents.

"I haven't raised my prices in a while," Crossman said. Declining business prompted him to close the self-service car wash a few years ago.

The laundry's proprietors felt the 2008 economic recession, but not through reduced sales. Their credit card interest rates went up.

"You never miss a payment, and then all of a sudden, your interest goes from 7 percent to 19," Alton Crossman said.

A few regulars use only half the laundry's services. With washers available at home, they arrive with baskets of damp clothing and bedding.

"That's fine," Crossman said. "Some places in the bigger cities don't allow that. If you don't wash, you don't dry."

He said revenues have climbed slightly in recent years.

The laundry's overhead is lower than it was previously, because the owners have paid off the loan they took out to buy the property. But there are still utility bills and the finance charges on the new equipment they added to the laundry's equipment roster.

"The cost of these machines will surprise you," Alton Crossman said. For the four new washers, six dryers and hot-water tank they purchased recently, the cost was $28,000.

Every day of the year, Alton Crossman drives from his nearby house to unlock the laundry's doors at 8 a.m. He returns at 9:30 p.m. to lock them. When there are machines to be fixed, emptied of coins or the bill-changer needs to be filled with quarters and emptied of banknotes, he performs those duties. But the laundry is usually unstaffed and watched via cameras linked to the owners' home.

"You'll look at the cameras and nobody's in here," Alton Crossman said. "But we'll find money in the machines. It's like they were in here when I wasn't looking!"



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