How a Laundry Entrepreneur Spends Her Sundays
When LaChena Clark was laid off from her job as a senior loan officer at Chase Bank in 2008, she still had to do her laundry. So, she figured out how to monetize the never-ending chore, opening Sudsy Water Laundry&Dry Cleaners in Harlem. Now there are four locations; three in Harlem and one on the Upper East Side. Recently, Ms. Clark has been gathering clothing left behind by customers to donate to the thousands of migrants recently bused to Manhattan. Ms. Clark, 55, whose first name is pronounced “La Sheena,” lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Harlem with her partner, Michael Starks, 60, who works for the city.
WHAT’S COOKING? Sunday is a miraculous day for me. I love it. Everything is about, ‘Hey, it’s Sunday.’ What am I going to cook for the day? I wake up at six, while Michael is still asleep, and start planning. I’ll thumb through some cookbooks or The New York Times recipes section, then I’m out the door to the grocery store.
SCENERY Sometimes I drive up the Taconic to get groceries. That’s a childhood thing for me. I was born and raised in the Bronx, and my mother always said, “Let’s get in the car and go look at the beautiful scenery.” Lately, I’ve been seeing gold and purples up through Bear Mountain. I like some of the specialty grocers in Westchester. I’ll shop at Balducci’s or something, and I try to get home by 9. Sometimes, if there’s a farmers’ market on the way home, I’ll stop there, too.
ANGLOPHILE I work Monday through Saturday, so Sunday is the only day I can take my time and prepare everything we eat. Michael’s sister showed me how to make corned beef hash from scratch, so we could have that on an English muffin. Or I’ll make bangers and mash. I’m a little bit of an Anglophile. Actually, I’m very serious about it. I used to like to go to the Two E Bar at the Pierre Hotel for high tea, but then they closed for the pandemic and I haven’t gotten a chance to go back yet.
A HELPING HAND I’m always involved in work in some way on Sundays. I’ll create the staff schedule and send it out. Or I’ll go to one of our Sudsy locations for something we’re doing as a partnership, or for one of our community projects. I’m usually calling around to find out what needs to be done, like when the pandemic hit and we were able to offer laundry service for older people. That’s how my mother and grandmother raised me: You should offer. I had been calling around about the people coming in on buses to see if they needed clothing, and then I bumped into somebody from the Community League of the Heights who told me they do. We have tons of abandoned clothing. New Yorkers leave town and they forget their clothes, or they move and they get left behind.
SPECIAL STOPS There’s something called Fifth Avenue Thai Spa on 57th and Fifth. If I can, I like to go for a massage there. Or Michael and I will just take a walk through Central Park, or we’ll try to go to Governors Island or the South Bronx to see the cool new things going on. I love New York.
SPECIAL SERVICE But I still try to have high tea on Sundays. That’s around 4. I like to make things for my own teas, like scones and cucumber sandwiches. Poor Michael. He has to sit there and have high tea with me. I have all the accouterments: the pot; the layered, tiered trays. I set the table. It’s a Lenox tea set I got at Macy’s.
CALM NIGHT My evenings are quiet. After tea, I’m reading more recipes, then I’m resting for the six-day workweek that’s ahead. Michael’s probably watching sports. I don’t watch too much TV. Everybody’s like, “Did you watch ‘Game of Thrones’?” but I don’t even know what the new season is called. I go to bed every night between 9 and 10. I have to wake up pretty early in the morning.