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Blackduck King Koin Launderette has new owners

New front loading washing machines.1 / 2
New dryers at King Koin.2 / 2

The one thing that most small towns have is something that Blackduck came very close to losing -- its laundromat -- King Koin Launderette, to be exact.

After many years as the laundry's owner, Nina Anderson sold the business to Grant Foss in October of 2010. After a year of owning the business, Foss made the decision to close the facility if he was unable to find a buyer.

According to one of the new owners, Gary Kelley, Foss was an absentee owner and neglected the machines as well as the building.

"We bought the launderette at the end of September," said Kelley, "Mom noticed the 'For Sale' sign and we learned that the owner would be closing it if he didn't find a buyer and converting the ground floor to two studio apartments."

"The previous owner had neglected equipment repair and even basic appearance of the store," said Kelley, "It was in deplorable condition with a half tiled floor and a paint scheme from the 1970s. Many newly-returned customers report that they had to stop using the launderette because so few machines would be operational at any time and even the change machine and vending machines would be out of order," he said.

Kelley also said that the facility needed a lot of TLC and needed to be, in his opinion, operated by people who lived locally and would be on premises daily.

"When we took over, only six out of 15 washers were operational and just four out of nine dryers," he said. "Customers had learned that if they pulled up and someone else was already doing laundry, they would have to go elsewhere," he said.

His mother, Myrtle (Olafson) Kelley, who had been doing laundry there since the 1970s, thought it would be a shame for the town to lose the only remaining laundry. One other reason for the purchase of the laundromat was the fact that it was the only laundry between Northome, Squaw Lake and Bemidji.

Myrtle, a former Blackduck resident, was born on the old Roy Olafson family farm, eight miles east of Blackduck. She was one of eight brothers and sisters.

"She left the area during World War II to be 'Rosie the Riveter' in St. Louis, MO. where she met my dad, Carl Kelley, and settled down to raise a family," said Gary. "We came up here every summer for vacation and she and my dad bought part of the Olafson farm to retire to. She still spends every summer (May to October) here but winters in St. Louis, having experienced Minnesota winters enough."

Gary's background is in the consumer electronics industry.

"I was a national dales, marketing and product development manager for several different companies over the years, the most notable being Hitachi," he explained. "I have lived all over the country: Omaha, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Reno. I retired five years ago and made my home up here, as far away as I could get from big cities, having had my fill."

Gary said he and his mother feel that they can serve Blackduck adequately with the current 15 washers, three of which are triple loaders and two others which are doubles.

"We have nine dryers and would like to replace a few with 'double stack' dryers to increase capacity," he said. "We are also going to offer drop off service ($1.50 per pound, 10 pound minimum) and will be looking for commercial business (resorts, etc.)," he said.

The Blackduck King Koin Launderette is located at 8 First Street across from the post office. We are open from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week. The phone is 835-4465 or you can e-mail them at

"We greatly appreciate the support of all of our customers!" said Gary. "And we are here to stay!"