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County data show a significant number of San Juan County residents depend entirely or in part on coin-operated laundries

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AZTEC — The washing and drying capacity of this county seat just grew by 112 machines this month.

Laundratopia, a local chain of Farmington laundromats, opened its fourth location — the first in Aztec — across the street from Sonic on West Aztec Boulevard earlier this month. One of the laundries is under a different name because of lease agreements.

Though it opened on Friday the 13th, owner Alan Frazer said he’s no triskaidekaphobe. The decision was actually a matter of tradition, not superstition, he said.

"We always open our businesses on the 13th of the month," Frazer said. "It was my dad's lucky day. He, himself, tried to always open his stores on the 13th, and I've maintained the tradition."

The Frazers own about 20 convenience stores in New Mexico and on the Navajo Nation, as well as some in Colorado and Arizona. In addition to the convenience store and coin-op laundry business, the Frazer family also owns local storage facilities and strip shopping centers.

Frazer’s father, Hobby Frazer, started the locally familiar 7-2-11 Food Stores with the opening of the chain's first location at 900 E. 20th St. in 1956. His father was named after William Pettus Hobby, a managing editor at the Houston Post and the 27th governor of Texas, Frazer said.

In 1979, coin-op laundries were built alongside the convenience stores and some of those still remain.

Full-time laundry attendant Lajuana Dufur is one of the new laundry's three full-time workers. It also employs two part-time workers.

Before she began work at the new location, Dufur worked at Frazer's laundry at the North Church 7-2-11 for more than five years.

Dufur helps people make change, keeps the place clean and also washes, dries and folds clothes for time-strapped customers.

"Some people live in trailers or in apartments and don't have washing facilities, so they come by here to do their wash," Dufur said.

Jimmy Voita, San Juan County assessor, said the numbers of people in the area who likely may rely on laundries like Frazer's are significant.

According to data Voita's office provided to The Daily Times, there are 12,089 mobile homes and 145 mobile home parks in the county. Mobile home parks in that number include parks with as few as five spaces per park, but some have several hundred spaces.

Voita said the numbers do not include property in the Navajo Nation portion of the county and don't include mobile homes that are permanently fixed to the ground.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, San Juan County has a population of 118,737 people, 21 percent of whom live at poverty level.

People who live in the many mobile home parks in the area are not the only ones who might lack a washer or dryer at home. People who live in apartments that may not have adequate or working laundry facilities may underscore the need for additional coin-op laundries, Dufur said.

According to Voita's data, there are only about 20 laundries in the county.

There are also nearly 600 apartment complexes, duplexes and triplexes in the county, according to Voigt's data. Those domiciles, along with homes that lack adequate laundry facilities, mean doing laundry in San Juan County can be a challenge, especially during certain times of the day, Dufur said.

The Shiprock Regional Business Development Office is one of six business development offices on the Navajo Nation and represents 14 chapters.

Program Manager Randolph Selles said Shiprock has three laundromats and people from sparsely populated areas on the Nation travel from as far as Sheep Springs and Sanostee or farther to do laundry in Shiprock if they aren't in Farmington.

"When you go out to our 14 chapters, they are in really remote communities," Selles said. "There’s always a need for a laundromat, but bottom-line is profitability for the owners. Red Valley, Huerfano, Upper Fruitland, Nenahnezad, Sheep Springs — they’re not going to make a profit out there."

Selles said the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority's recent water rate increase is further disincentive.

Frazer said his family operates two 7-2-11 convenience stores in Shiprock, but neither of them have adjoining laundries. There are also four other 7-2-11 convenience stores on the Arizona side of the Navajo Nation without laundries attached — in Tuba City, Fort Defiance, Many Farms and Kayenta.

Laundratopia was launched in 2013 by Frazer, 58, his brother, Mark Frazer, and sister, Tobi Chapin.

The siblings coined the business name together and opened the first Laundratopia on the west side of town on South Gooding Lane that year.

“Utopia is an ideally perfect place, so if you put them together you get an ideally perfect laundry,” Alan Frazer said of the name.

The new laundromat has 54 front-loading washing machines and 58 front-loading drying machines. Washing a single load of laundry costs $1.50. Two loads cost $2.50, three loads cost $3.50 and all the way up to eight loads for $8.50. A quarter will buy customers 10 minutes of drying time.

Some of the machines are labeled with yellow signs that read "greasy clothes only," a gentle notice to oilfield workers whose clothing will undoubtedly have grease or grime from working on or around oilfield equipment, Frazer said.

Signs inside the laundromat tout the washers' ability to create spin with a g-force of 100, which whips more water away from items like towels and clothes, shortening drying time. Most commercial washers spin with a gravitational force of 80, Frazer said. (A g-force of one is equal to the force of gravity at the Earth's surface.)

With more than 6,000 square feet, the new laundry facility has seating by the front windows and there are four restaurant-style booths in one corner. The laundry also offers customers folding stations, rolling laundry carts, restrooms outfitted with diaper-changing stations and free WiFI, Frazer said.

But opening by the 13th left a few loose ends, including an eight-load washer that is still on order.

He said he is still catching up with installing what has become standard fare for killing time at laundromats — flat-screen TVs mounted on the walls.

Soon, the new Aztec laundromat will sport five new ones, he said.

Frazer said the new Laundratopia fills a need for the recently closed North Church Avenue 7-2-11 laundry on the east side of town. That laundry lacked sufficient parking for customers — something the new Laundratopia has aplenty out front and on the side of the building, which faces Frederick Avenue. Frazer said he is thinking over whether to reopen the old laundry location or shutter it completely.

On Monday, Allyshia Trujillo, who lives in a mobile home in Bloomfield, and her two-year-old son, Keedrin, came by to do a load of laundry.

"We used to go into Farmington, but my cousin told me this one was really good," Trujillo said. "The Laundratopia in Farmington across from Walgreens is always crowded. She said, 'If you don't want to fight over washers, you can go to the new one in Aztec.' So we did."

Hauling loads of laundry by car can be a once-a-week enterprise, Trujillo said.

"I try to keep up with it, so I try to do it once a week," she said, laughing as Keedrin ran circles around her.

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.

More info

What: Laundratopia

Where: 1523 W. Aztec Blvd. in Aztec

Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day

More info: Call 505-327-7211

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