Charlie Bob’s: More than a laundromat

| August 5, 2013
Charles “Charlie Bob” Wallace cuts the ribbon on his new laundromat, Charlie Bob’s Coin Laundry at 5439 S. Anthony Blvd. (Photo: Condra Ridley)

Charles “Charlie Bob” Wallace cuts the ribbon on his new laundromat, Charlie Bob’s Coin Laundry at 5439 S. Anthony Blvd. (Photo: Condra Ridley)

Click here to view photos of the laundromat.

Frost Illustrated Staff Report

FORT WAYNE—By now, lots of folks are talking about what soon could become the city’s most famous laundromat, thanks to the establishment’s iconic owner—Charles “Charlie Bob” Wallace.

On July 6, Wallace opened Charlie Bob’s Coin Laundry at 5439 S. Anthony Blvd. While nearly everyone in the community seems to know Charlie Bob and about his various business ventures through the years, people might be surprised to know just how much planning, commitment, cutting edge technology, and service and care he’s poured into his newest enterprise.

Even from a first outside encounter, it’s evident that Charlie Bob’s Coin Laundry isn’t your typical laundromat. Step out of the car with a basket of clothes and, immediately, one of his dedicated staff is there to help you get your laundry inside.

Once inside, Charlie Bob’s dedicated and knowledgeable staff continues to help assist their customers, offering information regarding the hi-tech machinery that fills the establishment and the best options for doing your laundry efficiently and economically, including the best washer/dryer combination to use, information about detergents and water temperature preference. Charlie Bob goes beyond a typical laundromat offering expert information regarding personal laundry needs.

Charlie Bob’s Coin Laundry features the most advanced equipment in the area. According to management, that means customers will get top-quality washing and drying quickly and economically. No more putting clothes through a dryer four times because an old or poorly maintained machine won’t heat up or having to re-wash a load that didn’t get clean. Staff say the machinery at Charlie Bob’s Coin Laundry is the best the area has to offer.

All the washers and dryers are constantly monitored by management—even when Griffin isn’t on site, thanks to the best technology in the business. For example, if a washing machine is filling or draining too slowly, it might indicate a blockage in the system. Griffin doesn’t have to be there to know that. The machines automatically send a text message to his phone, indicating what the problem is and, often, he can fix it by just sitting down at a remote computer. Same if a washer goes out of balance. A message instantly goes out to him. And, if it’s something that requires direct attention, he immediately calls onsite staff to correct the problem. Again, it’s giving the clientele the best.

Plus, the facility itself is well-maintained. All the machines are constantly cleaned, and management emphasizes that the bathroom is always kept spotlessly clean. Plus, the employees are the friendliest and most helpful you’re likely to meet anywhere—especially at a laundromat.

“We want to create an atmosphere where people can come in and enjoy—with great service,” explained Eddie Echols, route developer and route sales manager for Charlie Bob’s Coin Laundry. “Nobody likes to go the laundry but we’re doing everything we possibly can to make this experience pleasant.”

According to Echols, Charlie Bob has gone even beyond the extra mile to ensure people on the south side of Fort Wayne have a top-quality facility with top-quality service where they can do their laundry. He said he sees the laundry as not just a business but part of the fabric of the community. For example, Echols said installing the best washing machines and dryers on the market wasn’t just a cosmetic move. The 24-minute cycle machines are the fastest commercially available, and Charlie Bob’s has them in a number of different sizes. Washers come in 60-, 40-, 30-, 20- and 10-pound capacity while dryers come in 75-, 45- and 30-pound sizes. Similarly, the dryers are the best around and heat up like no others, so that customers can dry clothing without multiple cycles. Consequently, customers can do large amounts of laundry quickly—and get it clean.

“You don’t have to be here all day. You can do six baskets of clothes and be out of here in an hour and a half and get a good quality wash,” said Echols.

While modern detergents negate the need to wash clothing with extremely hot water to get them clean, Echols said, if that’s a customer’s preference, Charlie Bob’s can accommodate them in fashion. By adding an extra 25 cents to a wash cycle, a customer can get extremely hot water. And, said Echols, unlike most other laundromats where the water doesn’t actually get hot until the washer is almost filled, Charlie Bob’s water is instantly hot—thanks to an auxiliary hot water system installed there, which manager, Art Griffin, showed off in a room at the back of the building.

“In 70 percent of laundromats in town, the hot water is actually cold and doesn’t warm up before your machine is filled,” said Griffin. “For a quarter more, you get instant hot water here. And, there’s no hot water drop off,” he added, citing the special heating system and large-capacity hot water tank. There’s no big reason to use hot water,” he said, explaining that modern detergents don’t require hot water to do their best washing, “but if you want it, you’ve got it.”

Griffin should know. He’s been in the laundry business nearly a decade, spending a number of years working at the Wash House. Now, he’s taken his skills to Charlie Bob’s, not just because of the hi-tech equipment at the establishment, but because of Wallace’s commitment to providing the best service to customers and employees.

“He had a vision. He wanted to help hold up the South Side,” said Griffin. “Charlie didn’t just put in the laundry—it’s state of the art.”

Again, Griffin echoed the sentiment that’s (that) it’s not just about the machines. Rather, he said, “It’s because Charlie Bob cares about people.”

“My boss actually cares about the employees and the customers,” said Griffin.

That same caring attitude carries over to the staff, who in turn, treats customers with the utmost care and respect.

“I think we’ve got a great staff,” said Griffin.

In addition to Griffin and Echols, the Charlie Bob’s Coin Laundry crew is rounded out by Pete Hogan, who has extensive business experience, and Noornelah Mohd Khan, who in addition to be characterized as a “great employee” willing to go the extra mile, is Burmese and serves as a bridge between the business and the Burmese community that is a growing and integral part of the South Side of town. Echols pointed out that Charlie Bob’s Coin Laundry already has a growing customer base, with not only a large African American clientele, but with Burmese, Latinos and European Americans. He said people are coming from as far as Lima, Ohio to use the facility.

It’s all about quality and service, said Echols.

“Quality will attract people,” he said—and service.

Not only does staff meet you at the car to help get your laundry inside, they also take time to give helpful hints that they say will get you the best wash, such as how to properly load a machine, how much soap to put in to get a great wash, ensuring that all the detergent removed during the rinse cycle and what size machine is needed for what you bring in your load.

The other thing you won’t find at Charlie Bob’s that you might find at other laundries is employees just standing around. Staff there at Charlie Bob’s is constantly making sure the facility is clean and that customers are being helped. They’ll even help you fold your clothes. That, said Echols, is because staff looks at customers in a very special way.

“They’re not just people—they’re friend,” said Echols.

That care for customers even extends to the maintenance of the machines.

“We clean our machines every night,” said Griffin. “On Sunday night, all the machines get a thorough, automated wash.”

“I want the customers to get what they pay for,” said Griffin.

Speaking of going the extra mile, Charlie Bob’s Coin Laundry will even go beyond that to help. Don’t have a ride to the laundromat?

“We will go within a five- to seven-mile radius to pick you up,” said Echols. “Just call us.”

“We don’t even charge you,” added Griffin.

It’s all about personalized service.

“It’s like the old gas station where the attendant came out to the car, checked your oil and washed your windshield,” said Echols. “That’s what we want to bring back—that old time service. That’s what we’re trying to really instill.”

That level of service struck Kenneth Jackson, who had just come to Charlie Bob’s for the first time, especially when Griffin met him at the car to help get his laundry inside.

“I’ve never had that happen,” said Jackson. “I decided to come up here because I know Charlie Bob’s nephew. I didn’t expect that level of service—front door service. You don’t get that often.”

Donna Dixie also was impressed, especially with the investment Wallace made in getting the best equipment in the area.

“It’s really efficient,” said Dixie. “You get in and out and not spend all day doing laundry. The dryers are getting hot. It’s good. They’ve got the right equipment in here.”

Echols said he wants people to know that they will get the best wash and best service around at Charlie Bob’s.

“Charlie put something in the Southeast neighborhood that a lot of people won’t have out north,” he said, emphasizing Wallace’s commitment to the community.

In addition to offering coin laundry services, Charlie Bob’s also features 72-hour dry cleaning. They’re also running a special for those folks who like to have nicely pressed clothes—including jeans—15 pieces for $25.

For more information about the services and specials at Charlie Bob’s Coin Laundry, including free rides to the laundromat, call (260) 441-8900.


This article originally appeared in the July 31 print edition.

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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