London is a city where the laundrette is a rotating part of community culture. For a younger generation that relies on Apps to pay bills, deliver food and set up a date, the idea that one can actually meet someone while clothes tumble and dry may seem obsolete, like writing an email, instead of texting. But, one entrepreneur wants Bogotanos to have a social experience that revolves around a chore that for many is tedious. So, instead of trying to hook up over beers with Tinder, why not meet for a latte at your neighborhood laundrette?
Welcome to Café Lavé, a laundromat fused into a café at the heart of Chapinero Alto.
Bogotá native Joseph Kaplan has staked his name in the dry cleaning industry in Colombia for the past two decades, running one of the largest dry cleaning chains in the country, known as Classic Lavanderia.
“Bogotá is a city that has at least 1000 lavanderías, but very few laundromats. In the last five years many tourists have come to my store asking if there is a laundromat because they needed an inexpensive solution to washing clothes,” says Kaplan. “That is what inspired me to open a laundromat/café. I saw an opportunity in an undeveloped market.”
After walking through the main door, clients are offered a choice in coffee, from espresso to cappuccino, and then one can either have clothes washed and dried by a Café Lavé employee or thanks to their retro coin laundry machine, take the task on oneself. Either way, Café Lavé’s relaxing atmosphere and selection of pastries will have you surprisingly enjoying the experience.
“I chose Chapinero Alto because it’s an area where there are a few hostels and small hotels. This neighborhood is also being populated by a young generation of students and new professionals who don’t have time to do their laundry, or don’t have machines due to space in their apartments,” says Kaplan. “Many single people also reside in this neighborhood, and I thought what better than doing the most boring chore in a cool space where you can eat, drink, and catch up on emails?”
This won’t be the first Café Lavé claiming its presence in Bogotá, as the future looks bright for specialized coffee shops-turned-laundromats. “My idea for the future is to have many Café Lavé’s in neighborhoods that have these characteristics like Chapinero Alto,” believes Kaplan. “Bogotá, like many cities are evolving through creativity. People want new concepts.”
The pastries are delivered fresh every day by Les Amis, an artisan bakery with several venues in the north of the city. And when finding yourself with a pile of ready to wash clothes, the owner recommends for his guests, their medium Huila roast with a serving of arequipe filled medialunas.
Now, if you want food to do the talking, located near the corner of Calle 57 with Carrera Séptima, there’s a lively café, bursting with energy and laughter. However, there’s one feature that catches the attention of customers when they enter this pop-art venue and request a table. It’s entirely silent.
Sin Palabras Café Sordo was a project in the making for two years until they established in 2014 as a hangout for the deaf community in Bogotá. Extensive research resulted in a one of a kind café, with the aim of providing a social environment for an important segment of the population.
“The idea began with Christian Melo, who wanted to create an inclusive space for deaf people in the country,” says María Fernanda Vanegas, the founder’s sister. “He once saw two people communicating in Colombian Sign Language, and asked them if there were any place in the city designed for them to socialize.”
As unemployment rates for the deaf in Bogotá are higher than for those without a disability, Sin Palabras Café Sordo also posts job openings in the restaurant sector. All wait staff and kitchen positions are reserved for the deaf. “This is how the deaf community can benefit, without words, and in a space that promotes the arts, culture and their true potential,” states Vanegas. “It is necessary that we stop victimizing the deaf because they are capable, talented, and creative people,” believes Vanegas as the venue prepares for the afternoon caffeine rush. “Our clients show that they adapt to a world of listeners without listening.”
If you find yourself near Sin Palabras Café Sordo, enjoy a wide selection of tropical juices, cocktails, and bar food that includes nachos, burgers, and sandwiches. Chances are you’ll make new friendships over coffee.
Café Lavé: Calle 65 No.3B 57
Sin Palabras Café Sordo: Cra. 7 No.57-47