Fast-Changing Philly Neighborhood Still Loves Its Laundromat

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September 17, 2019

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Culture, Features

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Tang Laundromat is the last of its kind at a six-point intersection in Fishtown. (Photo: Michael Haley)

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. — Tang Laundromat stands apart as a heirloom of the past, among newer business ventures, in a gentrified Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown. Yet the establishment is still indispensable to the community.

Rapid change in Fishtown is evident with new businesses, housing developments, and influx of young professionals turning once vacant lots into million dollar listings. Cars, buses, and young professional families with strollers all interact at the six-point intersection of East Norris Street, East Susquehanna Avenue, and Cedar Street. It is here where hip, trendy, new businesses meet with Tang, an older operation still essential to the neighborhood. 

In addition to standard coin-operated washing and drying machines, the laundromat sells Skittles and Doritos, Cokes and Sprites as well as cigarettes and other tobacco products. It’s an old-school, one-stop shop for those who might need a snack or a smoke while cleaning their clothes.

“It sticks out compared to the rest of the businesses here,” said Fishtown resident Richard Estudillo, 28, who lives across the street from Tang. “As more money comes into the neighborhood, the more it feels like a relic.” 

Two popular restaurants, a coffee shop, a yoga studio, and residential houses all occupy the other points the laundromat faces. While Tang is drastically different than the rest of the intersection, it is essential to the neighborhood.

“It serves an important role because not everyone can afford nor has room for a washer and dryer,” said Estudillo, also noting Tang’s convenient location.

On any given afternoon, people walk in with Tide PODS and hampers of dirty clothes, alongside kids wanting to buy candy, older adults picking up a pack of Marlboro Lights, and many others conversing outside to catch up.

The nearby intersection offers a different vibe with newcomers walking into the popular Cedar Point for an IPA and vegan seitan wings or ReAnimator Coffee for a cold brew and scone.

“It’s a tale of two neighborhoods, and you can see the tension between somewhere like Tang versus Cedar Point,” Estudillo said. He has owned his home at the intersection for three-and-a-half years, experiencing Fishtown’s change firsthand. 

Gentrification has been apparent in Fishtown for years. According to a recent National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) study, between 2006 and 2017, average annual incomes in Fishtown jumped from $59,280 to $81,889. 

With this in mind, establishments like Tang should continue to thrive and serve the neighborhood even with new residents moving in. The need for laundry, snacks, and tobacco isn’t going to disappear among neighborhood locals or new residents anytime soon, unless more new businesses threaten its future. 

As a new generation has aimed to put its mark on Fishtown, Tang aims to serve the neighborhood, community, and its residents by providing the steady convenience of a place to clean clothes, something everyone in Fishtown can appreciate.

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