New laundry room opens today on FM | daily democrat

Those who want to clean up their act, or at least their clothes, now have a new place to do it.

The Avenue O Laundromat at The Plaza (formerly Lodi Mall), located between Rent-A Center and Tena’s Tap on the west end of Fort Madison, began its soft opening today and will have its grand opening on Friday.

Last year, Brian Christiansen purchased the mall and enlisted the help of his friends and business associates Jim and Melanie Cobb as property managers to make sweeping changes to the mall on the city’s west end.

Brian and his wife Christy and the Cobbs and their families moved from St. George, Utah, in the southwestern corner of the state, to live in Nauvoo, Ill.

The Christiansens purchased the Zion Mercantile Hotel, the Nauvoo Family Inn and Suites, the Woodruff Hotel, and Willard Richard’s Bed and Breakfast.

Jim is a general contractor and Melanie a real estate agent (they built and sold houses in St. George) and have used this combination of skills to revitalize the mall. They replaced the furnaces, added gas to the fixtures to lower utility bills, added LED lighting, and renovated the parking lot.

Not your old fashioned laundromat

Avenue O Laundry takes that chore to the next level with 28 washers and 26 dryers: 24 50-pounders and 2 80-pounders. They have machines with 2,4,6 and 8 loads.

“The ones with 6 loads are the biggest ones you usually find. Some of the laundromats in Burlington have two loads of 6, we have six. You can do an extra-large comforter there, and we have six of those,” said Jim Cobb. “We have 4 80-pound cannons that you use to make a bunch of blankets. You get behind in your house, even if you have a washer and dryer, instead of spending all day catching up, bring it all here and get it done.”

Proof of that came on Friday when Brian, Christy and Serenity Sullivan were making mounds of sheets and bedding from one of the Nauvoo hotels, and there were still more waiting for them in a nearby trailer. But even with that, more than half of the drives were available for general use.

“We want other companies to make use of this. Like the motels here, if they’re running late or their laundry is out of order, or the sports complex that has three-day tournaments. Those people need a place to wash those uniforms and clothes,” Jim said, adding that the units can also easily handle heavy-duty Carhartt work clothes in a single load.

If you’re wondering which unit can handle the largest, it’s all explained on the units front. There will be a graphic that says, for example, “6 x (then a photo of a laundry basket”).

“That means you can handle six of your laundry baskets,” says Jim.

He said that the laundromat turned out to be much larger than they had originally planned.

“I think during COVID people got used to things being spaced out, and even now people are more aware of space and sparseness. This way, people have these big tables where they can fold clothes and there’s a lot of space between rows of units.”

There are two large folding tables and two money changing machines are available.

24/7 access coming soon

This week the Avenue O Laundromat will be open from 6 am to 10 pm, but soon there will be 24/7 access via a free app that a person can download to their cell phone.

Melanie says that while they do have the doors open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and people are encouraged to put in their last loads around 9 p.m., once they receive their keys or codes from the app company, customers can access the laundry after that time.

Each person who downloads the free app will receive a code. Activating that code will give the person access to the laundromat.

Because each person is assigned a specific code, the Cobbs can tell who used the laundromat after hours, and there are security cameras.

“It also allows them to contact us if there is a problem with a dryer or something out of hours. We can remotely log in and start it,” she added.

Lint and fold, dry clean

Melanie said they plan to add a “fold and fluff” service for those who want to drop off their dirty clothes and have someone else do it.

“We are basically waiting to find staff. I think at first we’ll say we’ll have it done in 48 hours, but maybe we’ll go to 24 hours. You know, for business people in town who just want to drop it off and then pick it up ready to go, or anyone who’s too busy.”

And while the Cobbs aren’t getting into the dry cleaning business, they will be a drop-off and pick-up site and have made arrangements with Iris Cleaners of Mount Pleasant to pick it up and return it.

comforts of home

On the east and north walls are large flat-screen TVs, and Melanie has plans for one corner.

“I have spoken with the libraries and I want to put a reading corner there with some tables for the children. They can play or color, read the books, while mom does the laundry or watches TV.”

And there’s music playing too…perhaps to distract those who deal with the hotel’s mountains of laundry.

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