If you ask Sheleah McPherson what makes her Laundromat on the Q stand out, she will tell you that it’s the energy.
“We offer a different vibe for a laundromat,” McPherson says. “The atmosphere is safe and the parents love that they have something for their kids to do while they are folding clothes.”
McPherson and her husband John, owners of JLM Construction and Leah’s Laundromat on the Q, celebrated the laundromat’s second year of business this May.
In addition to new washers and dryers, bi-lingual staff, vending machines, music and television during waiting hours, the laundromat also offers a reading and learning area for its visitors.
“When new customers come in, they’re completely shocked,” McPherson says. “They’re used to making their kids sit down but I’ll tell them about the area for their kids to read and play and their response is, ‘wow, this is different.’ When I hear that, I know it’s a good type of different.”
The Read-Play-Learn Program was launched in partnership with the Laundromat Cares Foundation, Kansas City Kansas Public Schools and public library, and Lakeshore Learning and Scholastics. The reading area and material provides much-needed literacy resources to children in the community
“The area encourages reading and enhances our young people’s imaginations while they are here with their parents,” McPherson says.
Families are allowed to take the books home to encourage continued learning. The laundromat receives a monthly donation of 50-100 books from the publisher Scholastic, in both English and Spanish language.
Building Up Quindaro
Before the doors of the laundromat opened, the McPhersons had already made a 10-year investment in Wyandotte County.
“My husband had a vision that it would be amazing for Quindaro to go back to the place it used to be. All he used to talk about is when he was growing up in Wyandotte how lively it was here,” McPherson says.
“He’s been down here for 10-plus years. It looks easy now but it took time. Once people started seeing the area progress and get cleaner, then the support started coming,” she says.
Through JLM Construction, the couple has been intentionally remodeling and renting out buildings on Quindaro in an attempt to revitalize the area.
As the landscape of Quindaro Blvd. started to improve and more businesses came to the area, McPherson stepped away from her career in education to fully support her husband, and, from there, they brainstormed Leah’s Laundromat on the Q.
“There definitely was a need,” McPherson says. “When you look at the residential homes here, they are older homes and, most times, washers and dryers are in the basement and you have older people who can’t go up and down the stairs, so I definitely feel like it was a blessing to open.”
The McPhersons’ commitment has been recognized in Wyandotte and Jackson counties.
In February, they were recognized at the 31st Annual Wyandotte County Black History Celebration and Scholarship Banquet for their efforts to preserve African-American history and culture in Wyandotte County and KCK.
The laundromat was also voted a finalist for best laundromat in The Pitch’s 2022 Best of Kansas City.
JLM Construction owns seven other properties in the area and the McPhersons have a larger vision of how the boulevard could come back to life, including a cell phone store, a tax office, and a mini-mart.
One of their current revitalization projects includes remodeling a building to house apartments on the boulevard.
“It’s great that other businesses are opening around here,” McPherson says. “Now you can see that this really is a place where we can continue the Black history of Quindaro. There is so much history behind Quindaro and we don’t want to just hit a dead end and never communicate about what used to be.”
McPherson also says there is a need for support from Wyandotte County, including grant information, sidewalks to prevent injuries posed by the busy street on which the businesses sit, as well as investments in greenery to beautify the area.
“We wouldn’t be successful or growing if it wasn’t for the community,” McPherson says. “We’re giving so much back to the community and we know that we’re not going to see a profit from this for probably a few years. We’re doing this because we’re trying to improve this area for the community. It’s a need for the community.”
Every third Monday of 2023, the laundromat hosts Free Community Laundry Days.
On those days, visitors are given free laundry supplies to use at the laundromat and free access to washers and dryers from 3 to 6 p.m. Volunteers come to help and organizations donate food for the customers.
Sheleah and John McPherson regularly host giveaways throughout the year with the support of community partners including Communities Organizing to Promote Equity (COPE); Harvesters Community Food Bank; Laundry Love; Groundwork NRG; WYCO Mutual Aid; Dynamic Pawz; and others.
McPherson says she looks forward to adding family storytime through a partnership with the KCK Public Library.
“The impact of the laundromat being in this community has been amazing,” she says. “People come in and thank me on the regular. I’m here, I’m present letting people know I’m only successful because of you.”
For more information about upcoming events and specials offered at Leah’s Laundromat on the Q and to learn about upcoming community outreach events, visit their website.