The coin-operated laundromat in German Village has dried its last pair of socks.
Julie D'Elia and Faye Muncie quietly shuttered the laundromat March 16, a day after Gov. Mike DeWine announced orders to close bars and restaurants because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. More business closings were announced in subsequent days and weeks.
"With this pandemic, it just changed everything," said D'Elia, who, with Muncie, also owns Hausfrau Haven directly south of the laundromat.
D'Elia said she didn't have the staff to constantly clean the equipment and monitor the number of people in the building, which had 22 washers and dryers.
"I didn't feel good about it, but nobody knew what was going on," she said.
Hausfrau Haven -- a wine shop with beer, other alcoholic drinks and assorted knickknacks -- is expected to expand into the old laundromat, 765 S. Third St.
The German Village Commission on June 2 consented to the plans.
D'Elia and Muncie must now request a conditional-use permit from Columbus City Council.
Council is expected to hear the request near the end July, a city spokeswoman said.
The space will be used for offices, a staging area for merchandise and storage for Hausfrau Haven.
D'Elia said she and Muncie bought the building 24 years ago.
The laundromat, which was part of the sale, had been operating for more than 30 years.
It became known as the "cheapest game in town" for its inexpensive machines, but few customers were from German Village, D'Elia said.
Problems began to arise. Replacing worn-out parts became a challenge.
People would leave their laundry in machines and go to their cars and turn up the volume on stereos.
And once, a child got locked inside the laundromat. The doors locked automatically at 9 p.m. Someone broke glass in the door to retrieve the child, D'Elia said.
Nothing will change at Hausfrau Haven, D'Elia said. The pandemic, however, has changed the way many customers do business.
They now order their wine and beer online and pick it up or have it delivered, she said.
D'Elia has yet to reopen the wine bar since the March shutdown, although customers may return to bars, taverns and restaurants as long as establishments abide by the mandated social-distancing precautions.
Three apartments in the building will remain unchanged, D'Elia said.
Local historian John Clark said it looks like the end of an era because it appears no other coin-operated laundromats remain in the historic district, although some are in surrounding neighborhoods.
Legend has it that musician Eric Clapton did his laundry there while scouting central Ohio for a house, Clark said.
"It's sad from a nostalgic standpoint to see a laundromat go but I am excited to see what Julie and Faye will do with that space," he said.