Lloyd Hughes is either the most stubborn or most persistent man I have ever met, the type of person who refuses to accept defeat.
As a result, his South Side laundromat is back in business — more than six months after I told you about him being forced to close by a federal bankruptcy judge.
It’s been an emotional roller-coaster ride for the 70-year-old Hughes, who had operated his Laundryworld business at 63rd and King Drive for more than 50 years before being ordered in September to turn over the keys to a bankruptcy trustee under orders to liquidate the business to satisfy a delinquent bank loan.
Hughes did as he was told but was devastated. He talked about jumping out the window of the Dirksen Federal Building after court that September day. In the days and weeks that followed, his mood seemed to sink even lower if possible.
Yet Hughes never gave up on being allowed to reopen the business that has been his sole purpose in life, and he worked every angle he could conceive to make that happen.
Finally, his refuse-to-surrender attitude paid off last week when the same bankruptcy judge approved a settlement agreement between Hughes, the Small Business Administration and the bank that held the paper on the federally guaranteed loan that was the source of his financial troubles.
Last Thursday, Hughes reopened for business.
He fired up the 155 state-of-the-art washers and dryers that help set him apart from the competition and brought his old staff back to work.
Laundryworld’s revival is a shot in the arm not only for Hughes but for the underserved Woodlawn community where it is located. Sure, it’s just a laundromat, but that’s an important amenity in a neighborhood where most people might not be able to afford their own washer and dryer.
“People are really appreciative that I weathered the storm,” Hughes told me Wednesday.
We’d just finished talking when a customer, Alexander Childs, approached to tell Hughes how glad he was Laundryworld was reopened. Childs explained to me it had been difficult to travel outside the neighborhood to do laundry in Hughes’ absence.
Another customer, Chinique Clair, said she has been bringing her clothes to Laundryworld since she was a kid.
“It’s clean. I feel comfortable coming here,” Clair said.
Hughes thinks the turning point in his quest to reopen came when he sent a personal email directly to SBA Administrator Linda McMahon, asking her to please review his case. He attached a copy of my column about his situation.
Before being appointed to the SBA by President Donald Trump, McMahon was part of the WWE professional wrestling tag team business duo with her promoter husband Vince McMahon.
I can’t say for certain whether McMahon intervened, but the SBA, which had previously rejected his application for a workout agreement, reversed course and approved the deal.
Under the settlement, Hughes remains on the hook for a new smaller loan of $367,000 and will be allowed to keep his home, which was part of the collateral on his original SBA loan. But he must allow the federal trustee to sell the home of his late parents, which also had been pledged as collateral.
Hughes thinks he will be able to meet his new payment schedule as long as his customers return. I told him we’d try to help get the word out.
Hughes’ bankruptcy lawyer, John Redfield, said “everyone is kind of amazed” that his client was able to emerge from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy with his business intact. Hughes admits he couldn’t have done it without Redfield’s own persistence.
“I’m just so glad to be back in business,” Hughes said.