The washday spin doctors

Rosie Millard meets three brothers who are cleaning up the launderette' s image

I am at the opening ceremony of a large shop just off Russell Square in Central London. Multi-coloured balloons hang from the ceiling; smart-looking business people drink champagne as they listen to the mayor of Camden's speech. The mayor's gold chain twinkles in the light of press photographer's flash-guns, as we all toast the future of a fabulous venture. However, we are not gathered together to launch a snazzy high- class store, or burger joint owned by the Sylvester Stallone/Bruce Willis corporation, though the site is certainly swish enough: thick blue carpets, white walls, shiny chrome ...

No, we are standing in Duds'n Suds, a launderette owned by three brothers from Derry who think they have hit upon a good idea.

According to snappily- dressed, twinkle-eyed Edward Nicell, 36-year old managing director of Duds'n Suds, the launderette business was simply begging to be ... tumbled over. "The industry was due for the same change as video shops were, three years ago. Long overdue, in fact." Mr Nicell looks around proudly; Duds'n Suds boasts 52 washing machines and tumble- dryers, comfy chairs, a pool table, Sky television and a smart-looking snack bar (cappuccino and Danish pastries a speciality). "Everyone thinks that London is the only place you can have brainwaves. But we launched Duds'n Suds in Derry," Mr Nicell says. On the wall behind him is a large poster. It says "Duds'n Suds - Good Clean Fun!"

Mr Nicell and his two co-managing brothers Damien, 30, and Gerard, 25, really believe that going to the laundry can be good fun. "There are about 5000 launderettes in the UK," Mr Nicell proclaims, watching Damien and Gerard move among the crowd, pressing the flesh and cracking jokes. "Most of them are sweaty and smelly. The Dot Cotton look. Something out of EastEnders; all black plastic bags. Ugh! I hate black plastic bags. We bin them the moment we see them."

No black plastic bags then. Or dirty floors. Or lugging dripping washing around; at Duds'n Suds, (which has branches in Belfast and Southsea as well as Derry) you have groovy little chrome trolleys to wheel your washing about in. "There are no ledges to get the trolleys caught on," says Mr Nicell. "You don't have to stoop down to put your stuff in the washer. Everything is at an accessible height."

The idea is that instead of shoving your clothes in a washer, and then sloping off to the pub or mooching around the shops for the next half- hour, you simply wheel your washing about in a chrome trolley, place it in the machine, sit at the cafe-bar, have a cappuccino; and hey! - instant fun for busy students and professionals old and young

"The 30-minute cycle will just fly by," says Mr Nicell enthusiastically. We are at the bar before an impressive array of confectionery and cakes. "Have an Opal Fruit," Mr Nicell says, then he's off about the image of UK launderettes; all women in headscarves and steamy windows. He waves an expansive arm. "We are creating a new image. We have attacked the existing market, and added to it. Even a macho man can be cool at Duds'n Suds. He can put his washing in and then watch the match on Sky TV. Wives will be happy to ask their men to do the washing. In Derry, Duds'n Suds has become a social event. Our staff even get tips, and flowers. Isn't that brilliant?"

With full-time staff, service washes, dry cleaning, a shirt-ironing service, even little gadgets for taking lint or fluff off clothes, - "has it all", right down to competitive prices (£1.80 a regular wash).

"It is a total Quality Clothing Care Centre. We can even separate out your wash. No more grey knickers. Ha ha ha!" Mr Nicell's enthusiasm about laundry knows no bounds, which is not surprising when you learn that he and his siblings, who were at that point only running a wacky half-video shop/half-laundry operation in Derry, went out to Des Moines, Iowa to meet the owner of Duds'n Suds USA, a vast launderette franchise business. There, they convinced the powers-that-be that they could run the entire European market. "We were just three young cubs from the sticks. But they realised our vision was the same as theirs. We negotiated the rights for the UK and Europe - we've bought them outright. Duds'n Suds UK is now a completely independent franchising business."

The brothers are negotiating at least three more sites in London, one in Glasgow, and are conducting meetings with would-be franchisees. The meetings are in Derry, of course, where the head office is. "We just have a regional office in London," says Mr Nicell. "We want people to come out to Derry and do business with us there."

In the future, the Nicells hope to see franchises springing up everywhere, all bearing that strange name.

"Ah, the name ... Duds is an American expression," Mr Nicell explains. "Meaning dirty clothes. Suds is obviously soap-suds." He pauses. "Although as it's me and my brothers running the operation, perhaps it should be Duds'n Studs." His brother Gerard interrupts. "Or Duds'nSpuds. Ha ha ha!"

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories
comedy

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?