Our beautiful launderette – husband and wife celebrate ‘doing the washing’ in Sevenoaks for 25 years

WHAT is believed to be the longest running business in the Hollybush/St Johns Hill area of Sevenoaks is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Paul Baker of Wealden Properties (right) hands over a bottle of champagne to Noel Payne.

The husband and wife team of Noel and Trudy Payne originally had a chain of launderettes in London but have now been running the Hollybush Launderette together for a quarter of a century. Paul Baker, a director of the property management company Wealden Properties, recently congratulated them on their achievement by presenting the couple with a bottle of champagne.

Noel said: “We have leased the place from Wealden Properties from day one. There was a launderette on the site before and I wanted to buy it. But the current owner of the property beat me to the punch. I was still keen to open in this area, so I came to an agreement with the landlord and took on the lease.”

The couple, who live in Maidstone where they own another launderette, have become familiar faces in Sevenoaks with Noel collecting and delivering washing from homes and Trudy looking after the Hollybush Lane outlet where they offer service washes, dry cleaning, repairs, and any other clothing related matters.

Noel said: “The majority of our customers visit regularly and over the years these people have become friends. Trudy knows nearly everyone who comes through the door. You can almost predict what day they are going to come and sometimes even the time. Some people like to use the same machine and will wait for it to become free rather than using another empty one.”

So, what changes have they seen in the last 25 years? Noel said: “In the Hollybush area nearly every business around us has changed hands. I think we are the only constant. But in terms of the process of washing clothes, not much has changed, although I think we are now the only launderette in this area. We have seen others in places like Borough Green and Westerham close.

“Obviously more people now have their own washing machines and that’s why so many launderettes have closed down. Trade is not as good as it was, but luckily we are still going.”

Noel and his wife Trudy have been running Hollybush Launderette together for 25 years.

As well as all the businesses around them changing hands, Noel and Trudy have also seen nearly every pub in the area shut down. He said: “We used to have people come to do their washing who would then go to places like The Greyhound (later St Johns Tavern) to have a drink while they were waiting for their washing to finish. So, the pubs would benefit as well. People still ask us where they can get a drink, so we send them to The Rifleman which is now the only pub in this area.

They have been asked to wash some strange things over the years including a dinosaur football mascot suit. Noel said: “We are not too keen on horse blankets and so don’t tend to do these anymore. This is more to do with the fact they now often have big metal buckles on them, and these can damage the machines.”

Although Noel and Trudy are very happy in Sevenoaks they wonder if there will be a launderette in the town once they finally retire.

Noel said: “In Maidstone we do loads of service washes because there is more high-density housing including bedsits and flats which may not have the room for a washing facility. In Sevenoaks more people have washing machines but if they are commuters, particularly couples who work in the city, they may not have the time to do their own washing and so they can drop bags off to us for a service wash.

“But I will be very surprised if there is a launderette in Sevenoaks in 10 to 15 years’ time. There will always be launderettes in big conurbations or university towns where you have a transient population living in small rented accommodation, but not in smaller towns like Sevenoaks.

“The costs that has gone up considerably are those for the utilities, and then there are the increases in businesses rates etc. I think this combination will be the death knell of many launderettes.

“But Sevenoaks people don’t have to worry, Trudy and I plan to continue trading for a while yet.”

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