If one were to summarize the history of BrainWash in one sentence, it would read something like this…
BrainWash was an accident.
It was a day in 1987, and Susan Schindler was searching for a location to house a nightclub she planned on opening in the South-of-Market neighborhood of San Francisco. As she describes it:
I was having a beer with the guy named Don who owned a store called the Balloon Lady on Howard Street between 8th and 9th. He - and the store - are no longer with us.
Don had invited me for a beer at a building on 9th and Howard which housed a bar which the locals called 'lipps' because it had a big neon sign that spelled 'Phillips' but the 'Phil' had burned out years ago and all that was still lit on the old sign was 'lipps'. The building has since become the nightclub AsiaSF.
Don wanted me to consider taking over the building for my intended nightclub location. It was a derelict bar, and he wanted to improve the neighborhood near his store.
In the course of conversation, out of the blue, Don said, "You know I love this space, but every time I look at that wall (it was the southern wall behind the bar), all I ever see is a line of washers and dryers."
"Why?" I asked, in response to what could only be considered a bizarre comment at best.
He replied, "Because there is no laundromat south of Market, and people are always coming into the store asking where they can go to wash their clothes."
"Are you kidding?" I asked. "There's no laundromat South of Market? Where do you send them?"
He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't know - sometimes the Mission, sometimes the Tenderloin. Depends."
That was my "Ahaa!" moment.
With a revised plan, Susan continued her search and eventually found the building on Folsom Street that would house the most unique laundromat on Earth – Café Laundré.
BrainWash was an accident – Part 2
It's been said that BrainWash got its name because it just happened to be located across the street from the building where Patty Hearst had been held captive in the 1970s.
Don't believe everything you hear.
As Susan tells it; I was at my kitchen table reading the Sunday paper and looking at coupons (the only thing that would make it more Jewish is if I had been eating a bagel). I saw a coupon for Tide and all of a sudden the letters of the word "Tide" on the cover of the box on the coupon swirled around and made the word "Brainwash". And no, I was NOT hung over or stoned. I phoned a few friends and they were unanimous in their preference for BrainWash over Café Laundré."
With the new name, Susan opened BrainWash to rave reviews in 1989. Since then, the business has been featured in scores of newspapers, magazines and broadcast videos both nationally and internationally. With BrainWash, Susan proved that it's possible to create something truly unique, even in an industry renowned for its blandness.