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BEST LAUNDROMAT Minneapolis 1999 -

There are Spin Cycle franchises in this city with more modern conveniences--you know, TVs, computerized vending machines, Internet hookups, cloning in the back room. Vend-a-Wash doesn't have all that, but its advantages are legion nonetheless: It's got the best hours around--24/7/365; the standard laundromat amenities--soap and change machines, folding tables, a sink for hand-washing; prices you can't beat (washers run $1.25 for a single, $1.75 for a double, $4 for a big rug; dryers go for 25 cents for eight minutes); extractors (35 cents) to wring out extra water and cut down drying time; and pressing machines--honkin' irons that steam out the wrinkles in a flash. One employee, who has worked at this family-owned enterprise for a decade, calls Vend-a-Wash one of the city's best people-watching joints, a "microcosm of society--there's some of everybody in here, born in every Southeast Asian country, every part of Africa, Mexico, and America." No need to hide that holey underwear, that cruddy bra, that soiled jockstrap here--you're with friends, and we've got holes, runs, and stains on ours, too. But here's what really sways us: Vend-a-Wash's popcorn machine, jukebox, and the funny scale that tells your weight in both pounds and kilograms and gives you lucky lottery numbers and the day's fortune, all for a quarter. There's always an attendant on duty, making sure the machines and unisex john are clean and stocked. And the same family has been keeping those washers and dryers clean since the '50s. There's ample parking around the building, but if you come in the middle of the night, go to the south door and ring the bell.

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