Regular readers of the blog will know that we like to promote unique and quirky local businesses, recently we’ve had posts on a business creating furniture from aircraft parts and another serving beer and gin from a vintage horsebox. This business ticks all the boxes and is one that you should know about and should put on your list for visiting.
Is it a launderette? A bar? A venue for music, comedy and other events? How about yes to all of those…
Introducing The Old Cinema Launderette
The Old Cinema Launderette can be found in Gilesgate, on the outskirts of Durham City. It occupies what used to be the Crescent Cinema which first opened in 1928 and later changed it’s name to the Rex. Kathy and Richard Turner have built on the history of the building, decorating the Old Cinema Launderette with vintage movie posters and laundry detergent boxes. You can get your clothes washed while relaxing with a coffee or beer and the launderette doubles up as a unique venue for live music.
We spoke to Richard and Kathy, owners of The Old Cinema Launderette to find out more.
Tell us about the Old Cinema Launderette, what is it and what goes on there?
We are a Launderette/bar/venue. We offer laundry services, dry cleaning, coffee, craft beers, fancy pants Gins intimate gigs and private events. This in a quirky Launderette.
How did the business start?
We opened 6 years ago when Kathy thought she may be made redundant from her job as a parent support advisor. We saw the old Rex Cinema in Gilesgate and thought a launderette would work there.
Where did you get the idea to combine a launderette with a performance venue?
The building was a cinema until 1958. We wanted to bring back some of that cinematic history to the neighbourhood. We spent time making the Old Cinema Launderette visually interesting with retro film posters and Old Washing powder adverts.
The place had a bit of a wine bar feel to it albeit with washing machines around the place. Richard starting putting on poetry evenings which evolved into music events. We had a bottle bar initially just open when gigs were on.
There is a maximum occupancy of around 50 for gigs and events.
Where do the performers play? Is there a stage?
The artists play in front of the tumble driers. This is a natural backdrop.
With regards to music, is it a mix of performers or is it usually a certain genre of music?
We have a mix of musical genre’s. Artists are chosen from the best of local, national and international areas.
What has been your biggest challenge since launching the business and what has been your biggest achievement?
Our biggest challenges have been balancing work and home life. Washing is very labour intensive. The recent refurbishment/building works were stressful to say the least.
We have a very professional staff team. Just check our Google/Facebook reviews. We take customer service very seriously. Whether it is ironing a shirt, laundering a duvet or putting on a gig we want to do the very best we can. That is our biggest achievement.
How has the venue been received since you started?
We have been putting on gigs for around 5 years now. The venue however was tiny before and was a little claustrophobic. The new space has been recieved very well. It’s a much more functional venue now. The artists love playing in front of the tumble dryers.
We recently held a Launderette Sessions festival with the Gala Theatre is venues around the City. There were some fantastic gigs and it was great working with colleagues from the Gala.
We are getting queries from major companies about holding corporate events in our space.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
Research the need for your product. Talk to other business people who are successful. Be adaptable. Work very hard but creatively. Look after and invest in your staff and customers. Embrace new ways of working. Be flexible. Location, location, location if you have a retail space.
Anything coming up that you want to tell us about?
We will be hosting an exhibition of Young People’s art from a local mental health drop in centre during November.
The bar is open when the launderette is but also on a Friday & Saturday evening.