Black entrepreneur LaChena Clark, who runs the Sudsy Water Laundry & Dry Cleaners business chain, based in Harlem and the Upper East Side in Manhattan, advocates for more minority-owned women-run businesses in the city.

“As a full-time employed working person, I would have to send my laundry out,” Clark said in recalling how she started her business. “The first day that I did that while I was working, it felt like another layer of freedom for me. That’s why it was on [my] list of businesses.”

A Bronx native, Clark attended high school locally and eventually graduated from Hampton University. She then pursued a career in financing as a loan officer in 2004 in a bank on 125th Street, but was laid off during the recession of 2008. Shortly after, Clark got another position at Chase Bank but was laid off due to residual effects of the economic collapse. Tired of job instability, Clark decided she’d work for herself from then on.

“I worked 70 hours a week. How could you lay me off? Right—I was devastated. Shocked,” said Clark. “And I said, well if I work 70 hours a week for myself, guess who will never lay LaChena off. Business may go bad, things may change, but I’ll never lay myself off.”

She wanted to open a viable business that was “recession proof.” A friend was instrumental in her takeover of a laundry spot that was vacant. By 2009, she opened the first Sudsy Water in the Bronx before expanding to Harlem. 

Clark wanted to make it easier for others by creating a reliable, streamlined service that would help alleviate the chore of laundry. She was excited to open up a laundromat in the same neighborhood where her grandmother, who moved to the city from Louisiana, once owned a clothing store. After two years, she was minority- and/or women-owned business enterprise (M/WBE) certified.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Clark said that the laundromat was deemed an essential service. She lost some staff and implemented social distancing rules, but her business didn’t falter or close during the pandemic. Sudsy Water also provided free or discounted laundry services for elderly people in the neighborhood, as well as no-contact pickup/delivery. Later, in partnership with Doctors Without Borders, her business began providing laundry services to homeless New Yorkers.

Clark became president and senior business advisor of the Bradhurst Merchants Association in Harlem, which helps her continue to advocate for other minority-owned businesses in the city.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting

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