THE tradition of having a place to take your washing on Sharrowvale Road, Hunters Bar, is nearing the end of its cycle after more than 110 years.
Sharrow Vale Launderette at the corner of Stewart Road – renowned for its community noticeboard as well as its washing machines – is preparing to close, with owner Roger McCreath looking for premises in a different part of Sheffield by the end of the year.
It has been there since 1963, and he has run it since 1996, but there was a washhouse just along the road in Victorian times, going back to at least 1901.
As far as Roger is concerned, it is not a case of a lack of business, but the wrong location.
In particular, trade was hit when the council restricted parking to a maximum of two hours, which was a problem for customers needing four hours to complete their wash. “I used to see quite a few families who did their whole washing in one day.”
At one time, Roger had up to eight staff but now he operates on his own, largely doing commercial work for organisations such as social services, restaurants, hairdressers and the university. There are still customers who walk in with their washing, though.
Owning the building himself has meant he has not to pay any rent, which has kept his costs down.
“But it has got to the point where it is just about impossible to run the business, with all the changes over the past three years. I am looking to transfer to other premises, somewhere a bit quieter.”
Roger lives above the launderette and is now disturbed at night by a new taxi rank that picks up customers of nearby pubs.
“You get taxis with their engines revving, keeping me awake. Then from five in the morning there is the council emptying bottle bins and dustbins. I get very tired, getting only two hours’ sleep a night.”
There are other problems – a spate of metal thefts in the area and the smashing of his shop window, although he welcomed the opportunism of a local artist who has displayed his talents on the boarded-up window.
It will stay there for at least a month. “I was very impressed and some people have said don’t think about taking it down!”
Usually the launderette’s windows are crammed with adverts for club nights, concerts, festivals and other events. “It’s like a community noticeboard,” said Roger, aged 47, who was in engineering for 20 years.
At one time, he went on cookery and catering courses with a view to opening a vegetarian restaurant. “But I learnt the crucial role that launderettes play in society.
“People come in for a chat, it’s very sociable. You even get people in who don’t want a wash!”
The characters have extended to the staff . “It was like living in the middle of EastEnders and Coronation Street at times. There was somebody who resembled Dot Cotton in EastEnders. I stopped watching the soaps because of it!”
Roger expects to leave, possibly for an industrial estate, between September and Christmas, once he has sorted out a lease on the Sharrowvale Road building. He does not expect it to remain a launderette.
“I’ll carry on providing a service from these premises in the meantime. I am actually quite busy, and I have tried to keep it going, but the bills are going up. It’s a shame. I’d prefer to stay, but it’s really not practical. I have got to be real.”