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Simonson renovates west end laundromat

Dan Simonson has come to clean up this town.

The Red Wing native recently reopened West Side Laundry in Ellsworth's west business district after totally renovating it.

"All we saved was the four block walls," he said of a work crew including several fellow members from the City of Red Wing's fire department, on which he's served the last 14 years (the 1981 Central High graduate later completed a two-year paramedic course at Northeast Metro Tech).

Simonson said Thursday the Ellsworth business now features new and highly efficient washing machines, including 10 double loaders and four 40-pound machines, plus 12 stacked dryers and one 80-pound dryer. In fact, the building's interior has all-new folding tables, money change machine, laundry products machine, rest room, floor, windows and doors.

"We jackhammered the old floor right out of here," he said about a construction project that began last year.

The plumbing was replaced, as was the electrical wiring, he said. New water heaters have been installed, along with heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have been met, so the machines, tables, rest rooms and more are accessible to the wheelchair-bound.

"We worked with BDA (Business Development Systems)," he said, explaining the Mendota Heights, Minn.-based firm inspected the facility on the southwest corner of Chestnut and Kinne streets to supply a plan for the project.

A parking lot to the south has been resurfaced to accommodate four-to-five vehicles, Simonson said. New outdoor lighting and signage is on a timer.

Inside, timer and programming capabilities with the washing machines allow their prices to be reset for a special discount on Wednesdays, he said. The change machine can also be easily reprogrammed to accept the newest paper money. Surveillance cameras mean the premises can be viewed at any time using a computer at his Red Wing home.

"We can check it to see how busy it's been or if it needs cleaning," he said, noting his practice is to try and clean the location twice a day, on average.

The owner of the local outlet as well as two laundromats in Red Wing said he saw the Ellsworth site while driving through the village one day. He contacted the village hall and police department across the street to learn of its former management and was informed Lyle Hofacker of Plum City was interested in selling it.

"It had been closed awhile due to a broken water pipe," Simonson said.

He credited RWFD members who have various building skills for helping him. Among them were Scott Myers, a builder, Terry and Jake Gilbertson, plumbers, and Doug Lantis, a framer. His wife, Lynn, and sons Brandon, age 21, and Aaron, 19, have been active participants, too.

The full-time fire captain and paramedic said he got involved with laundry enterprises after experiencing rusty water at his 1980s-built home. He made extensive corrections to get the problem remedied, installing an iron remover, a pressure reducer, a water softener and a new main. Meantime, his wife was regularly patronizing Red Wing's West Main Laundromat.

"We ended up buying it," he said of a 2003 purchase which was followed a year later by the acquisition of the Wash N'Fold along Red Wing's Tile Drive.

The former operation is self-service, while the latter also offers washing, drying, folding, pickup and delivery services, he said. Both places have around 40 machines and have been successful.

"When a husband and wife both work, they can take 10 machines on a Saturday and be out in two hours," he said of the convenience.

He understood Ellsworth's west end fixture has been a laundromat for the last 30-to-40 years. Uncertain when it was built, he's been told it's housed a former meat processing plant and grocery store in the past.

West Side Laundry is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.