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'You never know what's going to happen at the laundromat'

A one-story brick building with the words "Super Sparkle Laundry" on the windows
Anna Van Dine
Super Sparkle is located on Route 302 in Barre, next to Rub-A-Dub carwash and across from the Barre Granite Museum.

Pretty much everyone, at some point in life, has spent time in a laundromat.

Like Super Sparkle, a laundromat on the outskirts of Barre. The word “laundromat” on the outside of the building is spelled wrong; there’s an "A" where an "O" should be. VPR's Anna Van Dine recently spent some time there, talking to people. Like Brian.

A red building with the word LAUNDRAMAT in white letters.
Anna Van Dine
Laundromat (n.) "automatic coin-operated public laundry," was originally a proprietary name by Westinghouse for a type of automatic washing machine, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Earlier words for public places to wash clothes included washateria and laundrette.

Note: the following is a transcript. We recommend listening to this story.

Brian: Okay, great. My name is Brian — Brian Cardello. I live in Waterbury Center, Vt. We are at the laundromat. And I wish I could remember the name of this laundromat, which I can't seem to recall at the moment. Super Sparkle! That's the — that's the one. Super Sparkle, Barre, Vt., Sunday afternoon.

It's just a very low key area that consists of a lot of washers and dryers, along with chairs and TVs and vending machines, and it's quite nice.

Does it change? Well, obviously, the machines don't change. The people do. I mean, I come here, there's — there's different people. But as far as these fixtures? No, the fixtures never change. They pretty much remain a constant. It's the individuals who come here; those are the changes.

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Dan: We're here because, well, because our dryer gave out and we— there's four of us in the house, and it's a lot of laundry to keep up with if you can't dry it. We've got to bring it somewhere to get it done, so.

I'm Dan Covey, from Williamstown. I was born and lived there. And then when [my wife and I] got together, we moved away for a couple years and then came back. So we've been there, at least, as the family unit we are now, about 15 to 20 years — something like that, probably.

Brian: I like this laundromat. It's quite large, it's convenient. And not only do I come here, but I also stop and gas up, I do my grocery shopping in Barre and in Berlin. And I just find it— it's nice getting out of Waterbury, Vermont.

That area primarily consists of a lot of individuals who have recently moved to Vermont. And it's quite crowded, it's becoming quite congested. You get into the kind of the blue collar type of areas, and it's, it's back to Vermont. I mean, the Vermont that I like.

A small brown dog looking lost in a laundromat
Anna Van Dine
Several dog-owners brought their canine companions to the laundromat. This one wandered around, and appeared pleased with his surroundings.

Dan: Shaw's is up here on top of the hill. And when I was a kid, we used to drive out here and we used to hay there for like a week. And do that whole field where Shaw's is, and the Honda dealership and all that. That was just — that was open field with a house there. And we used to hay all that and, you know, cut and hay for there for a week and then haul it all back to town and whatever. But then, as years went on, Dad got land — or got use of land — that was closer to home, so he didn't have to do that.

It seems like it's a smaller place now. When it was just an open field, I was like, whoa, it took a while to get from one side to the other and whatever. And it was a long stretch. And now it's just a lot smaller lot than it used to be, it seems like.

But with anything, as you get older, anything that you saw when you were a kid that seemed big is now not. Everything smalls down, whether it's a house, or, you know, a place or anything like that. It just seems that way, so.

Brian: You come with a certain goal in mind, and that is to do your laundry. As a place, like, I don't know, a bar where you want to go and drink or whatever, laundromats serve a specific purpose. And that's doing laundry. That's what we do here.

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Mary Kate: My name is Mary Kate. I am a pharmacy technician at CVMC and I live here in Barre. I'm just being an adult on my one day off and getting laundry done.

I do inpatient medications. I also do drug diversion prevention.

I was at a different laundromat the other day and I did run into someone, and he told me a little bit about himself and his medical issues — because I was in my scrubs. You know, the mental health and the addiction and stuff. And he said he was homeless.

But he reached out to me, he was talking about being sober and some things he's dealing with. And I was familiar with some of the doctors he was talking about. And he told me a lot about himself.

Rows of washing machines on a blue and white tile floor
Anna Van Dine
The interior of Super Sparkle, a place that never changes, even though the people always do.

But he said he was there to stay out of trouble, because all his friends were, you know. It was Friday night. He said [this] is where I can just kind of be around normalcy. And yeah. Yeah.

Brian: This is a kind of a refuge in a sense. You can come here and just relax, knowing the fact that you have to be here for you now, whatever. For an hour or two hours or whatever. It's the fact that you know your clothes are being washed. They're being dried. And it's a tumbling sound. It's the washing machine. It's just, you know, and like I say, it's the people that are here. You know, the children that sometimes are here along with their parents and so forth. It's ... it's just kind of relaxing.

I don't know if you've noticed, but the person down at the other end is doing their nails. This gentleman is here with — I should say a couple — with their child, she's doing her coloring book or whatever.

And so you get these different characters. And it's a different cast of characters every time you come in.

Today, I get to meet you and we talk, and you never know what it's going to— what's going to happen in the laundromat.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a messageor get in touch with reporter Anna Van Dine@annasvandine.

Anna worked for Vermont Public from 2019 through 2023 as a reporter and co-host of the daily news podcast, The Frequency.
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