Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2theloo London: A return to victorian gentility!


Photo Credit: Amber Raney-Kincade
2theloo is a unique concept... the world's first toilet shop which aims to be a 'better than at home' toilet. On entering the facility you pay at the turnstile, but receive a voucher which can then be spent either at their own shop or in a partner business. I visited their pilot store in Amsterdam in 2014 (Read that blog post here.) They have been taking Europe by storm with over 200 venues opened since 2011, and now they have reached the UK.

Today marked the official opening of their new site in Covent Garden. The venue is neatly tucked inside two arches (one for gents one for ladies) on the lower ground floor of the market. 

I attended the launch party along with Amber, one of my loo ladies. In case you ever wondered, the launch party for a toilet involves canapes, drinks, and a ribbon cutting ceremony with short speeches by dignitaries humorously declaring that this is an honour because they have never opened a toilet before (this last is the most obligatory.) In this case it was Margriet Leemhuis, Deputy Head of Mission at the Dutch Embassy in London. Also present was Almar Holtz, one of the founders of the company (who has presumably opened lots of toilets!) In his brief address he told us that the Covent Garden location had been one of the final goals for his business partner Eric Treurniet, who tragically died in a car accident in early 2014. So this was truly a momentous day for the company. 

In a way, 2theloo represents a return to the civic pride that Victorian entrepreneurs like George Jennings took in their facilities. In 1851 when what are often lauded as Britain's first public toilets were opened at the Chrystal Palace 'spending a penny' got you not just a receptacle in which to do your business but a guaranteed pleasant place to freshen up, a towel, a comb and even a shoe shine. One's toilet, after all, traditionally included the whole process of washing and dressing before it became the euphemism it is today. Since the early 1900's public facilities have devolved somewhat. Indeed, many make it a point to get users in an out as quickly as possible, designing environments that are just tolerable enough to visit without being so hospitable that you'll want to hang around longer than strictly necessary. 

When 2theloo state 'It's our mission to make the absolute most of your toilet break,' they mean what they say. The facility is pleasant and clean and each cubicle is decorated with pictures of Covent Garden. The washbasins look like they belong in a posh hotel, and the ladies side has a seprate area for freshening up makeup. There are baby change facilities in both the ladies and the gents. 

A visit to the Covent Garden 2theLoo costs 70p, and the machine even dispenses change... a rarity for UK public toilets! The facility is open 10am-9pm daily. If you go try to make sure you enter on the correct side (the 'Gents' and 'Ladies' markings are subtle.)

Amber and I are very much looking forward to introducing it as a new highlight of the London Loo Tour!

Photo Credit: Amber Raney-Kincade

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