Story By Betty Carpick
Enjoying the summer outdoors, a robust hibiscus plant flaunts a single magnificent pink bloom beside the north entrance of Frank’s Laundromat. Founded in 1968, the family business—a cornerstone of the community—is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The shop has outlived most of its neighbours and its ubiquitous sign has achieved vintage distinction.
In the 1950s, attracted by the promise of unlimited opportunities, Frank and Rosa Macchione and their young family emigrated from Italy to Beardmore, Ontario. As a general labourer, Frank worked for the railway until he bought a laundry and dry cleaning business to service the booming economy. As the mines closed down, the Macchiones moved to Port Arthur to take ownership of a run-down 24/7 laundromat in a low-to-the-ground building at 227 South Algoma Street.
A strong sense of identity and self-sufficiency propelled the development of the new business. Frank and his 16-year old son Mario dug out the basement by hand to accommodate a boiler for steam pressing. They built an addition to the back of the building to fit in a press and dry-cleaner. Rosa used her sewing skills to do small repairs.
Knowing that a business can’t survive on a single thing, Frank’s incorporated the utilitarian functions of a laundromat with the comforts of a family setting. It wasn’t unusual for Frank to stay late or to drive customers home. Throughout the years, the small gestures created memories and dedicated regulars.
Today, son Paolo and his wife Carmen Macchione have taken on “The Mat” as a second career. With its relaxed ambience, the clean, reasonably priced and friendly shop offers customers self-service washing machines and dryers of varying capacities, a drop-off wash, dry, and fold laundry service, a dry-cleaning depot, free coffee and wi-fi, magazines and television, and snacks and soft drinks.
“You meet all kinds of people,” says Paolo Macchione. “Some of the regulars have been coming here a long time.”
There’s no doubt that Frank’s is about way more than dirty laundry. The distinctive communal experience shared over spinning washers and dryers just can’t be beat.