While many might view laundry as a mundane chore, two Evanston natives envision a space where residents could leave the laundromat with both clean clothes and stronger ties to their community.
Tosha Wilson and Jacqui White, co-owners of The Laundry Cafe, hope to open their ‘laundry Starbucks’ in the 2nd Ward early 2023. In addition to full laundry service, the redesigned laundry will include comfortable seating, freshly brewed coffee, a reading room, and a yoga and meditation area.
The Laundry Cafe will be a tenant of The AUX, a new small business center in the 2nd Ward that aims to uplift black entrepreneurs.
Wilson said she was inspired by learning about European laundromats, which have a community-centric feel that she says Evanston lacks. Soon after, she contacted White to collaborate on the project.
The cousins said family had played an important role in their trip so far; they have a common goal of leaving behind a meaningful legacy for future generations. Wilson said she draws inspiration from the drive and accomplishments of those close to her, such as former police chief Bill Logan and Hecky’s Barbecue founder Hecky Powell.
At a critical time in their trip, Wilson and White contacted Juli Kaufmann, president of Fix Development, the commercial real estate company that would help develop The Laundry Cafe. Kaufmann said Fix prioritizes a “quadruple bottom line” philosophy, focusing on four pillars of impact with all of its projects: environmental, economic, social and cultural.
Kaufmann said her partnership with White grew naturally when the two met at a local restaurant. At the time, Kaufmann was in the early stages of advising for The AUX.
Kaufmann said Wilson and White’s “community expertise and credibility” were essential to the development of the AUX. Wilson and White joined The AUX as co-developers and solidified The Laundry Cafe as one of the space’s tenants. Wilson said the name naturally fit the idea, “AUX” being short for auxiliary cord, because “we want our community to rewire and be connected to each other.”
White highlighted the fundraising challenge for the project and said The Laundry Cafe was still about $5 million away from its $6 million goal. She hopes The Laundry Cafe and The AUX will be milestones in strengthening Evanston’s black community.
Kaufmann echoed Wilson and White’s comments about advancing racial equity in Evanston. According to Kaufmann, promoting racial equity and inclusion is one of the ways Fix “seeks to build a social fabric that is good for all” through its social impact pillar.
Kaufmann said Evanston could do more to close the equity gaps.
“I feel like there’s a serious disconnect in Evanston between what’s being said around the commitment to racial equity and what’s being done around racial equity,” Kaufmann said.
In addition to contributing financially, the team hopes the Northwest and Evanston communities will support The Laundry Cafe once it opens its doors. Community members can also publicize The Laundry Cafe and visit the space, whether to attend a yoga class or to study, White said. Another way for locals to support the AUX as a whole, Kaufmann added, is to consider the possibility of owning the space.
“To see NU being influenced across the Ridge (Avenue) would be powerful,” Wilson said. “So why not bring some purple to the other side of Ridge?” Why not bring some purple to The AUX? And you know, raise your flag.
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— AUX seeks to foster community with Black-owned businesses at the forefront
— After Hecky Powell’s death last May, his family continues the legacy of Hecky’s Barbecue
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