Seth Mittman, the founder of Baby Bubbles, was not what I expected. The deep-voiced, baseball-cap-wearing man who greeted me as I entered the storefront did not match the image I had in my mind of someone who would start a laundry and cleaning service specifically geared towards children and toddlers. As a grandmother of three, I was completely taken by the concept of this business and was eager to meet the brains behind it. My surprise served as a reminder that New York is filled with interesting characters and that I should never judge a book by its cover.
At the time I met Seth in 2016, his children were two-and-a-half and six months old. He explained that when his older child was three-months, they bundled the baby into a brand new stroller for a trip to the doctor for a checkup. He and his wife looked at the waiting room packed with strollers. “Each was dirtier than the next,” he told me. He talked to the doctor about the best ways to clean the strollers, along with car seats and high chairs. He learned that baby seats of all kinds are breeding grounds for germs and bacteria: “Car seats are dirtier than the average toilet!”
After speaking with the doctor, an idea started forming in Seth’s mind. He did some research and discovered that there are very few companies that offer special cleaning services for baby items. Those that exist do not offer free delivery and pickup, which is one of Baby Bubbles’ main draws. Seth realized that New York, a city where babies are in their strollers far more often than children in the suburbs, had a need for the service he was planning to provide.
The laundry side of the business arose after the Mittmans experienced a fire in the laundry room of their building. With the inconvenience of having to figure out where to do laundry while taking care of an infant, they realized how helpful a child-centric laundry delivery service would be. Kids often require special detergents and their clothes need to be handled with care, so their laundry often has to be washed completely separately from their parents’. And yet, “there is not one wash and fold service in the country that caters to babies and toddlers,” Seth pointed out. He admits that this may be because New York is special in that many people do not own washers and dryers, but he was still excited to provide a unique service.
Seth quit his job in advertising and started building his own company in 2015. As he was creating the foundations of Baby Bubbles, he felt strongly that there should be a storefront. With so many apps and on-demand services available, he wanted to have “a place where mom could go if there’s an issue.” He started in his parent’s garage before finding a facility in New Jersey. It did not make sense, however, to have a New Jersey-based cleaning company whose main clients were in Manhattan, so he moved to his current location on 85th Street. A friend’s wife designed the interior of the shop and Seth did all the branding and logos – “I wanted it to feel like a spa,” he told me. The cheery, baby blue shop is lined with Baby Bubbles patented organic products, such as the crucial All Purpose Cleaner and bottles of “Stroller Magic,” a sprayable cleanser that fits easily in a diaper bag. He twisted the top off a bottle so I could smell: there are no added fragrances, so the cleansers are mild, fresh, and simple. He assured me, however, that they get the job done. He has had customers tell him that the cleansers have even helped them to get red wine out of their carpet.
The store also contains the “Bubble Factory” where all of the laundry and cleaning are done. Seth, himself, built the laundry facilities with the aim of streamlining the process. Customers can choose from different levels of services: they can pay by the pound or sign up for a membership that allows them to send in a certain number of pounds of laundry per month. He claims that a year-long membership costs less than it would cost for a family to do baby laundry themselves. He then clarified that Baby Bubbles does kid laundry only – they will not wash adult clothing that accidentally makes it in with the baby clothes, since adults have different bacteria and oils.
Baby Bubbles had only one truck when I visited, so pick up and delivery was mainly restricted to Manhattan, though Seth hoped to take on more Brooklyn clients in the future. Each laundry load is washed, dried, sorted, pressed, folded, and bundled into a neat package that is tied with a ribbon. The bundle is designed to be placed directly into a drawer, eliminating the need for sorting and folding.
“We have a 100% retention rate,” Seth declared proudly. He hopes to one day open a second store, perhaps in Battery Park, another family-heavy area of Manhattan. Mainly, though, he hopes that more families learn about Baby Bubbles’ existence so that he can help simplify their lives. He said, “We save parents time so that they can do what they want and spend more time with their kids.”