What you may not know is that At The Well was set up and continues to be owned and run by us, three sisters, Ellen, Cassie and Lily. We Grist sisters or ‘Gristers’ as we’ve become colloquially known, opened At The Well in 2012 after a solid year of hard graft reclaiming Bristol’s first coin-operated laundrette from a decade of dereliction. We, with the help of a dedicated team of staff, have now been serving the laundry needs of Stokes Croft and beyond for four years. Amazing! Between us we are actively seeking to ensure that the whole of Bristol LOVES doing its laundry!

Between 2006 and 2010, all four of us (our mum included) had the privilege to visit Ndola, Zambia, all in pursuit of projects supporting women and children. We each came away from Zambia with an overwhelming appreciation for the openness, hospitality and community we witnessed. Whilst we saw terrible material poverty, we were stuck by the great wealth of human interaction and social capital that arose from the need to undertake mundane daily tasks, cooking, cleaning and washing out of doors, together with friends and neighbours. Never had we been more aware of the social poverty that awaited us back in England-individuals and households living behind closed doors not knowing their neighbours, online networks and self-service check-outs reducing human interaction and individuals striving for self-reliance, independence and ownership.

In Zambia, the well, or tap stand, was the hub of the community. Not only a place to get the necessary water to drink and washing done, but the perfect place to meet with neighbours, share stories and interact whilst doing the necessary chore that united them. It was three years later, when Ellen found herself using her local laundrette that she realised that even in the UK a laundrette was a place where social interaction was socially acceptable, welcomed even! If only launderettes were staffed by friendly people who could talk you through the use of the machines and pour you a cup of coffee they could be a place of real community! A home from home – she thought. It was five years before we would realise building a laundrette-cafe from scratch to foster and house the eccentric community that Bristol had to offer. 

This is the woman who continually inspires all our just-like-mum-used-to-do methods. Our mum. This really is a family business, so you will no doubt see her in and around serving you pancakes and single estate coffees with the best of them.