CELSIOUS MAKES LAUNDRY DAY A SOCIAL EXPERIENCE
“We want to revolutionize the way laundry is done,” says Corinna Williams, of the new Williamsburg laundromat Celsious, which she co-founded with her sister Theresa. At first, the laundry industry doesn’t sound like one in dire need of change, but that’s also what makes it ripe for innovation. With a focus on a modern, social space with strong attention to gentle garment care, Celsious looks to redefine what people expect in their laundry experience. “We’re offering that sort of service that no other laundromat has to offer.”
The idea for Celsious came as a response to doing to laundry in a cluttered city like New York, especially for the Williams sisters, who had spent most of their lives in their native Germany. “I moved to New York to work for Harper’s Bazaar Germany as their US editor-at-large,” says Corinna, who had previously been a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle writer for Elle Germany. “I was forced to use a laundromat for the first time in my life—and I wasn’t loving the experience. I have to say I was pretty blown away by the state of most laundromats.” Celsious arrives at a time when people are looking to disconnect and embrace social spaces in both their work and personal lives. The laundromat, a necessity for many in New York, is the perfect fit. “We always felt that laundromats should be that social space, yet the laundromats that exist, and have previously existed, just don’t foster that sort of environment at all,” Corinna continues. “There is hardly any seating, lighting is horrific, you wouldn’t want to spend more time than you absolutely had to there, let alone meet friends.”
The Williamses wanted to do things differently with Celsious. “We wanted a bright, clean, friendly space, but without being sterile,” says Theresa, who was trained at Central Saint Martins as a product designer, creating custom eyewear in London before her move to New York. “We went for nice off-whites, natural tones, a lot of repurposed materials. The cork wall, for example, was the flooring on the mezzanine that was here before, so we tore that out.” Even the various textures like the marble that is used heavily in the café and the backyard come from repurposed materials, much of it found online. “I’m a little bit of a Craigslist nerd, so I just love to look for marble and wood.”
But it wasn’t just about design. The duo recognized that people were becoming more aware of health and wellness, and wanted to translate that feeling into the way we treat our clothes. “We also felt pretty strongly that people here in New York had obviously caught on to the fact that whatever you put in your body in terms of food plays a big role,” Corinna says. “The extension of that is the clean beauty movement, where people realize it also matters what I rub on my skin, and then the natural extension to us is laundry, the clothes you wear on your skin. We felt that now was a good time to take it that step further and explain to people there’s good ways and not so good ways to do laundry and care for your garments.”
To achieve that, Celsious uses top-of-the-line equipment, with specialty cycles that allow people to wash everything from delicates to yoga mats. Even certain items people would normally take to a dry cleaner can be cleaned at Celsious, and the sisters want to educate their customers on proper washing techniques. “Most garments can be wet-cleaned. You just need to have the right equipment, the right cycle, the right temperature, the right length of cycle, and the right detergent to do that,” they say. “I understand most people aren’t familiar with these things, and if you go to a standard laundromat, they won’t have these cycles. But we want to be the ones who have it.” Even the supplies for sale are eco-friendly, with a free three-ingredient house detergent provided for every wash.
Adding a cafe to the space is also a big part of the draw, and they approached the cafe with the same green ethos as their cleaning. “We were both born and raised in Germany, and our mother was actually one of the first disciples of organic living in the Eighties,” Corinna explains. “Our aunt is still an organic farmer, and we caught the bug pretty early on and it’s been part of our lifestyle. So when we sourced the purveyors for the cafe, that’s something that we looked out for.” For their pastries, Celsious worked with Saraghina in Bed-Stuy, a bakery which works with organic flour, natural leaveners, and locally sourced ingredients. They also stock jams from upstate farm Westwind Orchards and are the first cafe to use the ceremonial grade matcha from West Village beauty boutique Cap Beauty.
With this unique proposition and the added convenience for the neighborhood, not to mention the high-traffic location on North 7th Street, Celsious seems like an easy win, but it was a long time in the making. “We had to break down a lot of barriers, on every level. People did not understand what we were trying to do,” Theresa recalls. Now with the storefront complete, she only has to indulge her customer’s curiosity. “They see it, they look in and they say, ‘What is this? It’s so nice, why isn’t it a restaurant?’ It just doesn’t compute. Why do you think the laundromat should look the way it’s looking?” Celsious provides an answer and brings something new to an industry that’s been long ignored. As Theresa insists, “It’s due for a good shakeup.”
Celsious is now open at 115 North 7th Street, Brooklyn. For more information, please visit Celsious.com.