We created the ultimate Roadside America stop: the laundromat featured in Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too. It is located in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope. Thanks to Loretta, our GPS guide, we had no problems finding the tiny laundromat.
We recreated scenes from the book both inside and out. It felt like stepping from a page in the book. There was only one person doing laundry who got quite the kick out of our pilgrimage to Knuffle’s laundromat. We chatted with her for a bit explaining the significance of the laundromat; she loved the idea of doing her laundry in a “famous” place.
Here’s an interview with Luis Alva, the owner of the Brooklyn laundromat.
It is just a humble Wascomat Junior W74 double-loader, like millions of others across the land. But one particular Wascomat Junior W74 double-loader in one particular Brooklyn laundromat has become for tens of thousands of children what Graceland is to Elvis fans.
Every week for the past year or so, a handful of tots filter into Luis Alava’s laundromat at 358 Sixth Ave. in Park Slope for a private audience with the washing machine with the big “M” on its face.
The “Knuffle Bunny” machine, that is.
For a few months, Alava didn’t understand why parents were flocking to his nondescript laundromat and taking pictures of their kids in front of the Wascomat Junior W74 double-loader with the “M” on the front.
But finally, a customer showed him “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale,” a kid’s book by award-winning Slope author Mo Willems, that uses photographs and drawings to tell the story of a harried father, a cheery infant, and beloved bunny doll that gets lost in a Wascomat Junior W74 double-loader.
It has an “M” on the front. Just like Alava’s Wascomat Junior W74 double-loader.
Now, Alava said he can pick out a Knuffle Bunny fan a block away. He sees them standing in front of the laundromat and comparing the facade with the photographs in Willems’s book before coming inside. And then they gravitate towards the “M.”
The other giveaway is that they’re not toting laundry, either.
“It’s once a week or so,” Alava said. “They come in and all they want to do is take a picture of themselves with the ‘M’ machine.”
He says he doesn’t mind — even though he’s in the laundry, not child-care, business.
“If it makes the kids happy, I’m happy,” he said. “For the children, that ‘M’ machine is everything.”
Willems professed to be stunned — and bemused — at the fame of the stainless steel celebrity squeezed between the “L” and “N” machines.
“I was at that laundromat for maybe all of 10 minutes, taking pictures,” Willems said. “The only reason I chose that place was because of Luis’s willingness to sign a release. I’m not sure he knew what he was signing. I not only get his soul, but free use of the ‘M’ machine in perpetuity.”
As a tip of the hat, Willems did include the address of Alava’s joint on the inside cover of “Knuffle Bunny,” but said he would regret it if the laundromat became overrun by crawling fans making pilgrimages.
“I don’t want the place to become like the Soup Nazi,” he said.
Not to worry. The other day, several customers went about their business with nary a glance at the unused “M” machine.
When told that she was in the presence of the most-famous Wascomat Junior W74 double-loader in the country, Shanee Woodbridge offered her respects, but still chose another machine.
“Look sugar,” Woodbridge said. “I work in high-end tile, so I know celebrities.”
It was unclear if Woodbridge meant the tile or the customers.