The iconic black and white awning of The Laundress, in New York’s Soho, beckons customers into a shop devoted to eco-friendly cleaning products. Resembling a classically elegant kitchen, The Laundress has a black and white patterned floor, marble-topped island and, of course, a requisite washer and dryer. The brand was established in 2004 by Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd, who share their story with The Shopkeepers.
What motivated you to open a shop? Our flagship store has always been part of our vision for the brand. We always wanted a physical location to represent the brand in its entirety while being a place for one-on-one interaction with our fabric care experts to test, try, and experience our products. We are a New York City-based global business, so this is our flagship destination for all of our customers.
Did you have prior retail experience? We have interacted directly with our customers since we launched with direct-to-consumer on our website in 2004. We always wanted a brick and mortar retail experience for our brand to be able to have our customers experience The Laundress vision and lifestyle firsthand. We worked in retail growing up, and both of our parents owned (and still own) family businesses.
Who designed the shop? We did! It was a collaborative process between us and our architect to express our Laundress lifestyle and vision.
What are your best selling products? We have something for everyone! After all, everyone has dirty laundry… Our top store sellers are Signature Detergent, Wool & Cashmere Shampoo, and Delicate Wash. Our home cleaning collection and fabric care and home storage accessories are all part of the start-to-finish Laundress experience, turning everyday chores into luxurious experiences.
Where are the products made? All of our laundry detergent, fabric care, and home cleaning products are made locally in the U.S.A. Our tools and accessories are crafted by artisans all over the world.
What makes your shop unique? What we offer is unique to our category. Our clients come in with an issue or problem that we skillfully help to resolve. Customers leave feeling empowered with the products and know-how that they need. We have the solutions (literally) to any challenge.
Who are your customers? Anyone who does laundry is a customer! Once someone tries The Laundress, they instantly get it. They see how much better our products perform and see these results with their own items. They try one product and see how little you actually need to use with each wash (our products are all highly concentrated). Once introduced, our customers come back and explore other products in the collection until, eventually, we have taken over their laundry rooms! This is with all of our customers – men and women of all ages and demographics.
How has the Internet impacted your business? We started on the internet. The internet was the first platform for the face of our brand, and our first channel for direct contact with our customers. We started as a wholesale and online business and waited to open a brick and mortar store for almost 12 years after the collection originally launched. We see the internet-store relationship as a reciprocal one that supports our overall brand. People will pass by the store, check out the brand online, and then ultimately come in to make a purchase.
Gwen Whiting & Lindsey Boyd, Shopkeepers at The Laundress
photo: Lindsey Belle
Who inspires you?
Gwen: All of us who have dirty laundry.
Lindsey: My daughter, she makes me a better person. She has a kindness that is contagious, style that is effortless and a sense of humor that brings a smile to everyone’s face.
What inspires you?
Gwen: Travel. I get inspiration wherever I go.
Lindsey: Everything – People, Places and Nature.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business?
Gwen: The to-do list never goes away!
Lindsey: There is never enough time and “your job is never done for the day”.
What task do you like to delegate?
Gwen: Cash register.
Lindsey: Unpacking boxes is my delegation task. Thankfully we have an amazing staff and shipper that manages for us.
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop?
Gwen: Be prepared for the cost.
Lindsey: You are never prepared enough. Be prepared to learn as you go.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop?
Gwen: I’m not big into fame, I am happy for new customers to be excited to learn a skill, solve a problem, or meet the Laundress brand.
Lindsey: Kate Hudson and Goldie Hawn (love this mother daughter duo).
What is your perfect day off?
Gwen: A relaxing day with my husband at our weekend house where we unplug, cook, relax, and regroup after the week.
Lindsey: Being outside with my family from skiing and biking to bbq’s.
Can you share five favorite shops?
Lindsey: The Webster in Miami; Bergdorf Goodman, New York; Any pharmacy in Europe to find new products we don’t have here in the US (esp. baby colognes); Estnation in Tokyo; and Capitol in North Carolina.
Favorite neighborhood coffee shop and restaurant
On The Future Of Retail
“We think the future of retail will be more focused on creating a memorable client experience. Brick and mortar has to deliver on the interpersonal, tactile experience with service and know-how that online can’t achieve. A multi-channel shopper will always exist so you will have to find ways to make their time in your store worthwhile and enriching to their lives.”
199 Prince Street, New York City