WHEN Stuart Faulkner was a boy, his mother used to go to the laundromat at the end of Darby Street, not far from the hard turn left up to Bar Beach.
"It was back in the day when all the men's shirts had to go to the laundromat to get pressed, I think it opened in 1975 and it's had a few lives since," he recalls of the well-known site.
Born in Waratah and an economics alumni of the University of Newcastle, Mr Falkner's own past business life was that of an institutional stockbroker, and today he has a hand in multiple businesses.
From his Mudgee base he runs Country Scrap and Steel, a company co-founded by his father, the late David "Scruffy" Faulkner, who with his brother began Newcastle steel company Metalcorp, now known as Infrabuild. He and wife Kersti, his "go-to girl" in business, also run the luxury accommodation outfit Pepperhill Tree Group in Mudgee.
Newcastle - and possibly Australia - is now on his radar with his new venture Tumble Club, a laundromat business that he recently launched at the old Darby Street laundromat. Tumble Clubs have also opened at Kotara and Gillieston Heights, and Mr Faulkner will open one in Mudgee soon, with other Sydney locations.
Mr Faulkner's idea for Tumble Club came from his own intinerent work lifestyle.
"Travelling through NSW and Queensland,I would go away for two weeks to two months and I'd never want to come home with dirty clothes for my wife to wash. And everywhere I went, the laundromats were dirty and dark places with broken machines, you had to chase coins and there was detergent on the floor, it was a nightmare."
Three years ago he drove past the vacated Darby Street site after doing his research and he realised it was the ideal place to start.
A bright and modern twist on an often dingy business classic, Tumble Club is open 24 hours and has paywave only, free WIFI and Iphone charging stations. It has industrial-sized washers and dryers and dedicated machines for grease-laden workwear, for those with allergies, and for pet-related items.
"It needed to be coinless and have points of difference. I supply the detergent so people can forget it and still go. It needed to be stylish and an experience where a person comes in and feels relaxed, safe and welcome," says Mr Faulkner, crediting Mudgee-based Liz Johnson for the design features.
Tumble Clubs are unmanned but cleaned daily and have CCTV and a contact number which Mr Faulker responds to during working hours.
He says that all walks of life use Tumble Club, from the well-heeled looking to save time and students, at all hours.
"I look at a laundromat a bit like coffee - it is a necessity in life," he says.
Tongue in cheek, Mr Faulkner is also making a bold claim about the power of his latest business.
"Did you know that in the US more relationships begin in laundromats than nightclubs?" he says, tongue in cheek.
"It's a big claim that I can't be questioned about because there's no proof, but I can tell you there are three romances that have happened [at Darby Street's Tumble Club] and I know because they tell me. I told [that line] to one guy and three weeks later I bumped into him and he said, 'MATTTEEEEEE.'"
The businessman has invested heavily in Tumble Club and is on the hunt for more locations.
"There is no method to the madness, I drive somewhere and think, 'That's a good shop, does it have parking, street frontage, what's the demographics?' I spend hours driving and looking," he says.
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