176 MacDougal Street has Fire; Hong Wah Laundromat Closed – Will it Reopen? | Some History

by cathryn on March 8, 2013

Updated 7:48 a.m. — I’d been a bit worried for awhile now about Hong Wah Laundromat sitting at 176 MacDougal Street between West 8th Street and the Park. In a city that increasingly only views entities as ‘prime real estate’ or nothing, at the behest of a mayor and landlords (ultimately this will be to NYC’s detriment), how can a laundromat survive… unless the landlord is a bit sympathetic? I walked by Hong Wah the other day and saw the windows papered over - as above. I then read on Yelp that the laundromat experienced a fire sometime in February it seems. I couldn’t find any information online but a little bit more digging uncovered that the fire happened sometime around midnight, it took the fire department over half an hour to get into the building, and apparently no one was injured. It seems like it was electrical in nature – but I do not have that confirmed. It makes me a little suspicious and I wonder if they will return. Hopefully, yes.

A note is on the door (love the door!) from a customer looking for their clothes (there is no signage from the laundromat about why they are closed):


Close Up:


Some of the history of the building and nearby 8th street when it overflowed with book stores (independent book stores later hurt by Barnes & Noble which, as we know, is no longer) and photo above from New York Daily Photo:

I’m very surprised that I can find nothing written online or offline about this exquisite little building at 176 MacDougal Street in the Village. It sits at the corner of MacDougal Street and MacDougal Alley (click here). It is unusual in that much of it is unattached on four sides, atypical of small buildings like this in Manhattan. Coupled with its white-painted exterior, the building has a very free feeling to it. The detailing and window boxes gives it a European, perhaps Parisian, flavor. The retail space has gone through a number of incarnations over the years; currently, it is a laundromat. At one time, there was a restaurant called Shakespeare’s here.

I wonder what Shakespeare’s restaurant was like. Apparently during the prohibition-era, this location was the site of a “tearoom” called The Jumble Shop. In the picture, you can see Gus’ Deli to the left of the building which succumbed when construction on Stumptown Coffee began.

When you attempt to look up and enter the address 176 MacDougal Street on Property Shark30 West 8th Street pops up, and, it, like much of 8th Street is owned by real estate firm Buchbinder & Warren under their ‘front’ company, Return to Home. 30 West 8th Street is the corner spot address, future home of Stumptown. (Note this Crain’s New York Business story on Stumptown Coffee coming to West 8th Street where the real estate company basically pat themselves on the back for finding themselves a good tenant while not acknowledging the connection between the two entities, the ‘landlord’ of the building and themselves. The reporter should have caught that but alas…)

I’m not sure how these addresses are connected. It seems like 176 MacDougal, 178 MacDougal and 30 West 8th are all part of the same Tax Lot according to the Department of Buildings. (I don’t know what any of that means. Anyone out there who does?)

A better picture of the laundromat when it was open from Yelp:

I love that there is a pay phone in front! I’ll update when I find out more.

***
Photos #1, 2, 3: Cathryn
Photo #4: Brian Dubé / New York Daily Photo
Photo # 5: Tin L. via Yelp

 

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Georgia March 8, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I was wondering about that laundromat so thanks for your reporting.

Reply

Allie March 10, 2013 at 7:47 am

What a shame. Hope it will re open. It’s such a beautiful building and
the area really needs that laundromat…..it adds such character to the
Village. Thanks for the article, keep us posted.

Reply

cathryn March 10, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Hey Georgia,

Glad I was able to get to the ‘bottom’ of it somewhat. They were working there on Friday but I don’t know what that means.

Hi Allie,

It IS a beautiful building and it’s true the laundromat adds character. What happens when none of the laundromats can afford be here? I remember reading about one that closed in the West Village and the people were traumatized by it. I’ll update when I find out more.

Thanks for your comments!

best,
Cathryn.

Reply

Matt March 27, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Hi – it was actually my wife and I who left that note on the door. While I did love Hong Wah laundromat as they were brilliant, it is very strange (and now very frustrating!) that the Liu family have been impossible to contact since this fire. They still have (or had) bags of laundry of ours worth several hundreds of dollars and from what I hear many other customers are in the same boat too which is wholly unacceptable. It is terrible news that their business suffered this tragedy but it is very unprofessional to simply not contact your customers when you still have their stuff. If anyone has any updates I would be very keen to hear! thanks

Reply

cathryn March 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Hi Matt, Thanks for writing. Any word yet?

There is something very strange about it all… especially that no notice ever appeared on the door about why they were closed, etc. until the ‘for lease’ sign went up.

Did you sense the fire may have damaged all those clothes? I wonder if they had insurance, etc.

I am still looking into it…

Thanks & Good luck!

Cathryn.

Reply

e July 12, 2013 at 9:45 am
cathryn July 12, 2013 at 10:49 am

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