Landmark laundromat closes

June 10, 2011
By

(Gazette Photo by John Ruch) A man sits outside the Jamaica Plain Laundry Centre on May 25, a few days before its closure.

HYDE SQ.—A laundromat that has served as a basic community resource and chatting spot for decades washed its last load on May 29 after a reported dispute over a rent increase.

The Jamaica Plain Laundry Centre at 410 Centre St. sits across the street from the former Hi-Lo supermarket, where a Whole Foods Market is moving in and raising fears of gentrification. But a laundry employee told the Gazette before the closure that Whole Foods is not a factor.

“No, we’re just closing down for lack of a reasonable lease. It’s not being renewed,” said employee Sara Castellanos during a May 25 Gazette visit to the laundromat.

Laundromat owner Jay Buchta could not be reached for comment. The landlord is reportedly John Demopoulos, who does not have a listed phone number.

Nobel Garcia, who owns the El Oriental de Cuba restaurant next door, said that he heard the landlord proposed a 100 to 200 percent rent increase and is making no signs of buying the equipment to maintain the business as a laundromat.

“I would take over the laundry, too,” Garcia said, but added that he does not want to deal with the landlord.

Besides filling a basic need, the Laundry Centre is known for its outdoor benches, where hipsters and old-timers from Hyde Square’s Latino community often hang out and chat.

“It’s a meeting place for the neighborhood,” said Garcia. “We’re losing places throughout Jamaica Plain.”

On the day of the Gazette’s visit, customers busily washed clothes inside while a young man sporting leg tattoos sat on a bench out front. After the shutdown, signs hung on the laundry’s security grates, thanking “all of our wonderful customers who have supported us over the years.”

“It’s really an irreplaceable asset for renters in the neighborhood who don’t have an in-home washer and dryer,” said Ben Day, a weekly Laundry Centre patron, in an email to the Gazette. There are no other laundromats in easy walking distance, he noted.

Word of the laundromat’s closure was first circulated last month by Helen Matthews, an opponent of Whole Foods who heard the news from employees while handing out flyers. Gentrification of neighborhoods around Whole Foods stores is one of her main reasons for opposing the chain’s move to JP.

Whatever the cause of the Laundry Centre’s closure, it is “speaking to the heart of this issue,” Matthews told the Gazette.

“Who uses laundromats? Renters,” she said, adding it is another form of “jeopardy” for Hyde Square’s low-income residents.

“It’s a staple in Hyde Square,” she said.

The laundromat is in a large building at 410-416 Centre that also contains El Oriental and several condo units. The building was turned into condos years ago by Demopoulos and John Kariotis, according to Suffolk County property records. Demopoulos and Kariotis later split up, with Demopoulos owning the laundromat half of the building and Kariotis the restaurant half, according to Garcia. Kariotis confirmed to the Gazette last month that he owns the El Oriental half of the building, but said he does not know who owns the other half.

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