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Meet The Entrepreneur Who’s Keeping Your Clothes Clean During Quarantine

Jimmy Hsu
So Fresh So Clean Laundry in Richmond where owner Jimmy has worked since 2018

In our ongoing series, The Essentials, we meet people who are working out in the real world while many of us are sheltered at home. In this installment, we hear how the pandemic has changed the daily routine for Jimmy Hsu, who owns a laundromat in Richmond.

Jimmy is the owner of So Fresh So Clean Laundry in San Francisco. He’s been operating businesses in the Bay Area since the early 2000s.

My name is Jimmy Hsu and I’m an entrepreneur. I run and operate four businesses on Clement Street.

That includes a print shop, a cafe, and a salon.

And two years ago, we opened the laundromat business. Our name is So Fresh So Clean for a reason, we like to uphold that.

Jimmy has been able to keep the laundromat open since the pandemic began because it’s considered an “essential business”. But he’s had to make some changes during the pandemic.

We are taking extra precautions to clean the machines every half an hour or as soon as people finish using them. And we have a system of how we observe that.

He and his staff are making sure that their customers are also following the rules.

What is required is a mask, for sure, six-feet distancing. Just the other day a gentleman did not have a mask even though he was sitting in the front. I had to tell him “Listen, you have to have a mask on, this is the city requirement.” So he apologized and he left to go to Ace Hardware down the street, came back with the new mask and says I'm sorry, because he knows I'm the owner. So I always instruct my staff to not back down. Be nice, obviously. But, you know, be firm. And if they're rude to you, you know stand up for yourself. You know, that's what you got to do, you got to tell them “you want to come in, you got to have a mask.”

While hand sanitizer has become particularly popular lately, So Fresh So Clean has always had it available for customers.

I offer hand sanitizers at every, like, folding station, so we have been doing that since we opened in December of 2018. Ironically now everybody’s requiring it, so. Once the pandemic hit, all of a sudden, four of my dispensers all were missing. Customer just stole them or whatever.

In general, the pandemic has added more work for him and his staff. At the same time, business has been way down.

I mean, we're just breaking even, you know.We actually closed initially at the coffee shop. The reason I reopened up after like a week was because we had to keep the laundromat open because that's an essential business. And I have a lot of crossover customers, so a lot of people asked me to open a coffee shop. And living in San Francisco for this long, knowing that a lot of people have small spaces in their apartments and whatnot. So it’s just to offer them a little outlet to be able to get coffee in the daytime and food, even though we're not viable revenue-wise, it was still a great place for a community to go to.

Running his businesses has kept Jimmy busy and helped him avoid much of the isolation that many are feeling during shelter-in-place.

Fortunately, I've been working every day, so I go out every day. I've been tested, knowing that I'm one of those guys as an essential worker at the laundromat, even though I'm not taking a shift every day. To protect my family, my son and my wife, I was the first one to get tested and I was negative. With that said, you know, obviously we were in isolation, like the majority of people, hopefully, and not any gatherings whatsoever until I had a barbecue for six of us in my backyard because it was one of my partners at the laundromat’s birthday.

I personally think that, while they're finally allowing us to open retail which is great, and knowing that we're still going to comply to the six-feet distancing, social distancing, wearing masks, gloves, all the stuff. Because I know my business follows the protocols to the T, so I'm not worried about that. That's why I'm very confident in what we do as a business. We can't wait to get back to normalcy.

Unfortunately, the number of coronavirus cases has been surging throughout California. And reopening plans in the Bay Area have been put on hold indefinitely.


Noor Bouzidi is an intern with KALW. Her reporting interests are housing insecurity, immigration, economy, and all issues around systemic poverty in California.