The Lav’Club Cafe in Montpellier, a launderette… and a bar
A launderette is often an unfriendly place lit up by pale neon lights. Patrick Chevauché’s automatic launderette was no different... until his son Eric, inspired by a concept which already existed in the United States, decided to add a bar area. Since then, the customers pour into this Montpellier launderette, where at long last you can have a pleasant time waiting for your washing.
For Eric Chevauché, innovation is essential to giving local businesses a lift: “In every profession you have to evolve, find some new ideas,” he said.
That is exactly what he did with his father’s launderette. To attract customers, who were initially sceptical, he created formulas: one wash and one drink earns a free dryer. But the customers weren’t too tough to convince: with the cost of a wash that is cheaper than average, in a friendly place, and where the risk of theft has disappeared (thanks to the constant presence of customers), the Lav’Club Cafe has everything you could want to win them over.
“At the start, people were afraid to come in because of the washing machines, but now, customers almost forget to do their washing… Now we’re seen more as a bar than a launderette.” In fact the machines stop at 8pm and the atmosphere changes: until closing time at 1am, the lights are dimmed, the Chevauchés’ bring out a game of darts, and the room fills with a younger clientele, for whom the place represents a friendly, local neighbourhood cafe-bar and a great place to meet people. To accentuate this local feel, the Chevauchés’ regularly welcome artists from Montpellier: concerts or temporary exhibitions encourage one-off crowds… but more than anything, allow people to discover the Lav’Club Cafe.
“We work with a lot with students. People feel like they are practically at home. They know when they’ll arrive but not when they’ll leave! Before, everyone stayed in their little corner. Now they arrange a ‘washing machine RDV’. We only have a third degree licence for alcohol and not a fourth, to avoid anyone trying to rob the tills, and there is no Wifi because we want people to talk, to meet each other, and above all, that they don’t just stare at their computer screens.” The Lav’Club Cafe has become a real meeting place in Montpellier. Eric’s innovative idea was clearly a good: in one year, turnover has doubled. And the trend doesn’t look like stopping any time soon.