CLA Connect Open Forum

All your best ideas

  • 1.  All your best ideas

    Posted 09-13-2018 11:16
    Good morning Pauline
    Happy to see you enjoying your well deserved retirement. Now that you have some more time on your hands, I thought I’ll pose a question to you and all the other season owner operators on here .
    Recently we have had quite a few newbies on here asking various questions. I’ve been in the business for 7 years now and still learning every day. When I started I knew absolutely nothing about the industry but with hard work and some luck I’ve made it this far.
    My question is :
    If you guys had to do it all over again what are some of the things you will do?
    How would you build your store? Things you must have and things that are overrated? Tank or tankless water heater?
    thank you
    Sent from my iPhone

  • 2.  RE: All your best ideas

    Posted 09-14-2018 12:35
    Ok I may just be maintenance for laundrys but for alot of the stores iv been in and getting to know the owners. The number 1 thing is more dryers. Seems the dryer to washer % is way off on what they suggest. If they say you need 10 go 15 or even 20 depending on the area. Number 2 is if you buy a used mat is do the updates and if you start fresh save to do updates( paint, floor, lighting, ect). And number 3 is one I hear often "I wish I would have bought the building or built one". I'm sure that one is going to start something here but if you plan it for long haul them landlords can be a pain if something needs done. I got one mat that I work for is about pitch dark it needs all new lighting and the landlord won't approve new fixtures even tho mat is buying the fixtures. Well this can go on and on but those are the top things I hear.

    Store Owner/ Employee
    Morgantown WV

  • 3.  RE: All your best ideas

    Posted 09-14-2018 18:28

    Actually, I DID have it to do all over again.  Here's the story -

    I bought the Muskegon Laundromat in 1985 (32 years ago) and did a complete rehab including expanding the building by 500 sf and adding a rear entrance and a rear parking lot as well as new dryers and a bunch of new washers.  Then again in 2003, I replaced all the dryers and in 2005, I rehabbed the entire exterior of the building to create a protective overhang above the sidewalks.  In fact, I make property or business improvements almost every year but those were the 3 major projects.  So I've been "doing over" again and again.

    Here's some major things to consider:
    1.  Don't go cheap.  If you're going to replace some equipment with new stuff, take the time to design a Master Plan with the best possible layout.  Such a layout would have customer friendly features like wide aisles, seating, a folding table for every 3 or 4 dryer baskets, etc.  Now it's likely that a new layout will require moving some underground utility lines but this will give you a chance to upgrade old lines at the same time.  It's well worth the effort and expense to achieve the best (most competitive) laundromat possible.

    2.  Incorporate adequate service areas so you can get behind your hard mount washers without hanging from your ankles.  I think the absolute minimum width service area behind back to back hard mounts should be 32" wide.  My service areas are 35" wide.  All supply hoses are high in the bulkhead so one can access from one end and walk almost upright under the pressure water lines and hoses.

    3.  Buy high quality, durable equipment.  You know what they say:  "The appeal of the low price is soon tarnished by the cheapness of the item bought."

    4.  Install the equipment according to manufacturer's specifications.  Don't take shortcuts and don't allow your contractors to take shortcuts either.  Sometimes I think contractors are better at finding shortcuts than they are at construction.

    5.  Put your customers ahead of yourself.  Design a laundromat that your customers will find convenient, easy to use and comfortable.  Don't put barriers in their way.  Eliminate curbs between the parking lot and the sidewalk in front of the laundromat.  Install a quality automatic entrance door even if it means buying fewer washers initially.  Every customer will use that door several times but not every customer will use every washer.  Go for impressing every customer and buy the additional washers later.

    6.  Design from the outside to the inside starting with the parking lot.  If the parking lot can only handle 6 cars, don't install 40 washers.  Usually the parking lot cannot be expanded.  If you can add more parking spaces then that might be a huge plus.  In my case, I knew I was able to more than double the available parking spaces before I even bought the place.  Without that option, I likely would not have even bought it.

    Larry Adamski
    Muskegon Laundromat
    Spring Lake MI

  • 4.  RE: All your best ideas

    Posted 09-14-2018 19:05
    Just a handful of items:

    - Don't buy a store without real estate.  You can't time your ability to raise prices to match the built-in price increases of a 20-year lease.  In fact, a friend who bought a bigger store than mine at the exact same time, but leased, just told me he has stopped investing in his store, he is going to walk away from it at lease expiration in five years.  His entire investment will be worth scrap value after a total of seven years.  The lease was too hard to overcome to make enough money to invest and sign a new, more expensive lease.

    - Invest in plumbing.  You're really nothing more than a water broker, put the good stuff in.

    - Invest in modern equipment.  The huge utility savings and the huge drop in hassle-factor for you and your customers with broken machines can't be overstated.  Even if you have a good refund policy and fix stuff as fast as feasible, it's a terrible experience for a customer to haul out soaking clothes and put in a different machine.  For our lower-income folks, I've seen them try to scrape the powder soap they just invested for naught.

    - If you stay coins, go dollar coins.  So much easier. Not dollar coins only, but start dispensing and accepting them, it lowers the volume to a manageable amount.  I hate coins, but customers rule the roost and they seem to demand them.

    - If you're doing renovations, get the architect/electrician/engineer/plumber/contractor who has worked on laundromats before.  Probably can't find an architect with a clue, but ask around your local industry for the others.  I still remember the dumbfounded looks from my contractors when I kept trying to explain makeup air. "Yes.  I want a hole.  just a hole. To the outside. Yes, I really do.  It's ok.  It's just for behind the dryers.  No, don't duct any air-conditioning back here.  I just want an opening to the outside. "

    - Overdesign your HVAC.  Take what the engineer says and add 50% to it.  Maybe 100% if you're somewhere that gets hot.

    - Pay your bills early.  This is such a relationship business when it comes to your vendors, suppliers and contractors that being the one store who pays the same day as the invoice shows up will pay off in spades.  Your vendors talk to each other, the industry is small.  If you pay fast, your contractors will give you two thumbs up if you're trying to hire someone who has his choice of jobs.


  • 5.  RE: All your best ideas

    Posted 09-14-2018 20:15
    A few simple ideas:

    Simplify, simplify, simplify.
    For example:  Don't have different hours of operation, such as 7 to 8:30 Mon, Wed and Fri.  7 to 9:00  Tues and Thurs,  6:30 to 10:00 Sat and Sunday
    Instead:  OPEN 7:00am til 9:30pm  every day of the year except Christmas

    Use positive and simple signs:  Not this:  Please be respectful of our equipment and do not overload the washers and dryers.
    But this:  Load dryers half way up on the glass door.
                   Load washers loosely for best results.
    Too many "Do Not ........." signs can be a real turnoff for customers.

    Explain all required tasks to employees in simple, straightforward terms. Tell them exactly how you want something done.  Show them how to do it. Then have them show you how they can do it. Stick with it and be consistent.

    Simplify what you do at the store.  Have procedures that are quick and repetitive. Don't try to reinvent the wheel every day.

    Some owners may want to have more "profit centers" in their store, but I prefer to stick with the core business.  If games, snacks or drinks are wanted, have a vendor provide them for a commission.

    Don't be afraid to fire an employee that is detrimental to your business.

    If you suspect that a customer is trying to get too many refunds for equipment problems, tell them to find the attendant each time they come in. The attendant will make sure everything works properly for them.

    A public restroom is no fun to maintain. It's just part of the business.

    Be thankful for difficult problems. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it, and you would have nothing.

    Don't get depressed if you have a slow week.  Dirty laundry always piles up somewhere, and eventually has to be washed.

    Never lose a customer arguing over a quarter. Make sure your staff understands this.

    Try to avoid arguing with a customer, even if you are right.  The quickest way to calm an upset customer is to say "You aren't going to lose your money, We'll take care of you."  They don't want to hear an explanation as to why they are wrong.

    Y Winston
    Store Owner/ Employee
    Chesapeake VA

  • 6.  RE: All your best ideas

    Posted 09-15-2018 22:23
    1. Your parking would be the biggest limiting factor if you are in a city or a densely populated area like SF Bay area. Don't stock up your laundromat with too much equipment. Leave room for folding too.
    2. Pick up equipment that is built tough and will stand up to a good beating. Don't go cheap.
    3. Buy the real estate if you can.
    4. We have a no questions asked refund policy. Just a couple of customers over last 8 years have tried to abuse it. We promptly fired them.
    5. Go DCO if you can. If you are afraid, at least accept dollar coins and make machine bigger than $5 DC only. Currently only Horizons in our mat accept quarters and dollar coins. All the large washers accept dollar coins only. Life will become a lot simpler for you. Sorting them is a pain. But no coin jams.
    6. Advertise, advertise, advertise.... Never ever stop advertising.
    7. If you bought an existing store with really old equipment, then toss the water hogging equipment right away. Start with the most used machines and go to the least used machines.

    Mountain View, CA

  • 7.  RE: All your best ideas

    Posted 09-17-2018 15:29
    Thank you guys for all of the insightful responses. The one piece of advice that stuck out was owning the real estate. For most Mat owners that is not always an option. So I’ll ask again... is there any formulas that one can use in determining what each sq. Feet should generate relative to rent and other expenses in order to remain in a profit positive state?
    The reason I’m asking is, as I mentioned previously I’ve been in the business for 7 years now and is currently persuading my second Store
    So I just wanted to get some of you guys highly valued opinions.
    Thank you in advance
    Sent from my iPhone