Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
(Wo)man at work: Employee Laundromat Jekerkwartier
Quinten Eitjes/ 20/ second-year student of Arts and Culture/ works sixteen hours per week/ earning 10.50 euros net per hour
Is laundry your thing? “Not really, actually”, chuckles Quinten Eitjes, second-year student of Arts and Culture. Do you wash your own clothes and bed linens? “No, my mother does.” We’re sitting in the small canteen of Laundromat Jekerkwartier on the Karveelweg in the Beatrixhaven area. We’ve just completed a tour of the building. A large hall houses man-sized clothes dryers, a long row of washing machines hard at work, and large tables for folding laundry. Further down the hall is an ironing area; next to it are empty laundry baskets, stacked neatly on top of each other, and full laundry bags waiting patiently for their turn. Laundry may not really be his thing, but Eitjes talks passionately and at length about the laundromat. It’s a family business, he explains, headed by his father (owner) and mother and managed by his older sister, who is five years his senior. They have about fifteen hundred customers: primarily residents of elderly care facilities, but also clients of an addiction rehabilitation centre for youth in Brabant.
Ah… this information conjures up images of name labels on trousers and shirts. Wrongly so, as it turns out. “We don’t have to label our laundry. Our laundromat offers ‘personalised laundry’”, he says proudly. In other words: they use one washing machine per customer, loaded with all their socks, towels and tops. “In our ten years of existence, we’ve never lost even a single washcloth. And we’ve only had, say, three dye transfer mishaps, which are always reimbursed. This isn’t a sales pitch, it’s just the truth.”
The company is growing very fast, explains the student, who performs a broad range of tasks related to administration, marketing and the website. He and a webmaster are currently working on a new website, which, just like the old one, contains a list of vacancies. “We’re continuously looking for new people, actually, including someone to fold laundry for six to eight hours on Saturdays – might be a nice job for a student.” He also stays in touch with their accountant, wrote the text for their laundromat flyer, comes up with new labels for the laundry baskets, and visits potential customers with his father. And every three months, he orders about eighty fruit pies for the employees of the elderly care facilities who drop off clean laundry at their residents’ doors every week. The laundry is delivered by Jekerkwartier’s drivers. Eitjes also worked as a driver for a while, but had to stop because of a knee injury. “It’s hard work, dragging carts around, carrying fully loaded baskets.” There’s a knock at the door. It’s one of the drivers, looking for Eitjes’s father. “He’s not here, but I might be able to help?” They have a short chat about the torn-up streets – “it’s a right mess” – in Campagne, a neighbourhood of Maastricht; the construction work doesn’t make delivering laundry any easier. “Were the customers satisfied?” asks Eitjes. Smiling broadly, the driver says, “They always are when they see me.”
Yes, says the second-year student of Arts and Culture, he would like to take over the company one day. “My father says: with your brains, you’ll be able to take my place. It’s not a golden throne, it’s hard work, but we do see opportunities to expand into the rest of the country. We offer something large laundromats can’t offer – personalised laundry.” In that case, shouldn’t he be studying something else? International Business? Economics? “My parents said: go to university, study a subject you like, and then you’ll see whether or not you end up in the business. I decided to study Arts and Culture because I’m interested in politics, culture, anthropology. I’m not at all interested in economic and management theories. I’m interested in the practice. We always talk about the business at the dinner table. It’s our thing, which is nice, especially now things are going so well.”