In Big Pine there is a climate controlled laundromat with free wi-fi, flat-screen cable TVs, machines capable of cleaning 80lbs of laundry in less than 20 minutes and the old arcade version of “Ms. Pacman” – the only thing missing is a bar.
“You’re missing a bar,” says a local couple who just dropped into The Laundry Loft to see the recent renovations. For the past couple of weeks, the Lower Keys have been bubbling over the Grand Re-opening of what was once a crumbling hangout for dirty derelicts.
“All sorts of people have been just stopping by to thank me,” grins the Loft’s wiry owner, Nash Martinez, who opened his doors to much fanfare after transforming the old laundry into a sterile space of shining stainless and scented suds. A former car dealership “fixer” who traveled the country cleaning up the business of others, he points past the massive commercial tumblers toward the rear of the facility, hinting toward a brighter future. The locals nod in understanding, wave and head toward Winn Dixie.
Last weekend shock waves reverberated through the Middle Keys community when Marathon’s lone laundromat went up in flames – leaving scores without a readily accessible, coin-operated laundry facility.
Across the bridge, Big Pine Keys’ newest entrepreneur has the remedy.
“There is nothing that says you have to be tortured while doing your laundry,” Martinez says with a voice so calm he could use fabric softener as mouthwash. Conspicuously absent are the rows of brightly colored molded chairs and clunking machines hissing steam and burning through electricity.
What remains exposed is the copper lines feeding the banks of quietly humming washing machines. “The water is always hot,” Martinez says. “And extremely efficient.” Water is instantly heated to 140 degrees before jetting into the washers and the Milnor M330C dryers feature axial airflow technology. Translation: water is not evaporated, but extracted. Martinez’s mission behind the setup was to save property managers time during their day. With 28 washers and 27 dryers, property managers or the laundry-lugger for any household can clean the linens of an entire home in 20 minutes while the sifting through emails on the free wifi and the only reason your laundry will now take more than an hour is if you can gobble the dots and dodge the ghosts of Ms. Pacman.
Romanian laundry diva, Tatiana Onofrei helps Melissa Cross, a former employee of the old Big Pine Laundromat, with her fresh laundry. “Awesome,” said Cross. “The prices are reasonable and everyone is real happy with the changes.”
When he was 17, Martinez pointed his ’65 T-Bird south. “I didn’t even know where Key West is, but I am going to find it,” the young man thought to himself. After returning to the Keys periodically for a couple of decades, he owns the most southern, state-of-the-art laundry facility in the United States – located in Big Pine Key.