Written by Sam Barron of DailyVoice.com
LAGRANGE, N.Y. -- There's one place in LaGrange where everyone is welcome, especially if they need some clean clothes.
We've Got Your Sock Laundromat, located at the Apple Valley Shopping Center, has been run by Nelsonville resident Suzanne Kee for more than 5 years. Kee took over the laundromat after retiring as a teacher after 24 years.
The laundromat works with Abilities First and the Anderson Center for Autism to employee people with special needs.
"I've always believed in inclusion," Kee said. "They've been godsends."
Kee said the community has been very supportive and understanding of her employees. Employees vacuum and mop the floors, water the plants, clean out lint from the washer and dryer, wash the windows, help transfer laundry, and sort the whites and colors. They also welcome customers, help them bring their clothes in and hold the door for them.
"It's been a wonderful thing," Kee said. "I wish other business owners were more accepting of people with special needs. They are so delightful and special in their own way."
The employees also bring their own laundry so they can learn how to operate the machines. Occasionally, Kee treats them to pizza as a thank you.
"They've been great," Kee said. "It's almost become a family. Two of them have become best friends. They've been such an asset to this business. It would be very quiet without them."
Kee has worked hard to make We've Got Your Sock more than a place to put your clothes in the dryer. The laundromat has free wi-fi, coffee, and tea, a clothing timeline highlighting pre-Civil War clothes and two aquariums.
"I try to make it interesting in here," Kee said. "This place is like my baby. I don't wake up and say 'shoot, I have to work today.' I want this place to be like 'Cheers' or a barbershop. I try to make it a neighborhood center."
Owning a laundromat enabled Kee to live the American Dream while also allowing her to reconnect with her relatives. One set of grandparents ran an old fashioned laundry service while the other ran a dry cleaning business.
"They live on for me at this place," Kee said.
Aside from running her business, Kee also has an ability to play matchmaker at We've Got Your Sock. It's where she met her current boyfriend, and she has set customers who are still dating. One couple recently moved in together.
"My matchmaking fee is a bottle of ice wine," Kee said. "They sent it to me at Christmas time."