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Evolution of an Enterprise (Conclusion)

WESTBROOK, Maine — If you live in Maine, you’re likely a customer of Pratt Abbott Garment Care, the state’s largest provider of drycleaning, vended laundry and linen/uniform rental services. David Machesney and his father, Jim, purchased the company in 1991. It’s grown fivefold since, capturing market share through acquisitions, new development and continual improvement.

Pratt Abbott umbrellas 12 drycleaning facilities, eight vended laundries and a 50,000-square-foot linen and uniform rental plant. By design, multiple revenue streams feed the enterprise.

“One of the reasons we have all three business sectors is to provide volume to afford a management infrastructure which allows our employees growth opportunities,” says David Machesney. The other, he maintains, is because providing “everything clean” simplifies life for customers.

ZOOM IN ON VENDED LAUNDRY BIZ

Machesney is heavily invested in the vended laundry industry, having acquired and developed eight laundries since 1991.

About 10 years ago, he embarked on a major overhaul of underperforming stores, acquired through the years, to make them more profitable. Key to that endeavor was Ralph Daniels, of Daniels Equipment Co. Inc., a full-service laundry equipment distributor based in Auburn, N.H.

Daniels recommended Machesney replace his laundries’ equipment to improve revenue and reduce overhead costs. His suggestion? Swap out all hard-mount washers with Continental Girbau ExpressWash® freestanding washers.

“I knew this would improve efficiency and create shorter wash/dry times for customers,” says Daniels, who installed the first few washers on a free-trial basis.

“I told David if they didn’t save him money in utilities and make the stores more profitable, we’d pull them out,” says Daniels. “The change would also allow the laundries to serve more customers per day.”

Machesney went forward with the recommendation. “Maine utility costs are high – between 1.25 and 1.5 times the national average,” he says. “We wanted to significantly lower those costs.”

The ExpressWash machines, which are engineered to save water and electricity, also cut natural gas costs because they produce extract speeds reaching 400 g-force. The ExpressWash machines remove more moisture from every load, which shortens resulting dry time.

“Because dry times are nearly cut in half, dryers use less gas and customers can finish laundry in less than an hour,” says Daniels. “This makes for happy customers and allows for more paying customers per day.”

Along with the new equipment, Machesney gave the stores a facelift for impressive gains in revenue and profit. As they are renovated, they are rebranded as Express Laundry Centers®. “We have two done and six to go,” says Machesney. “We will do two more this year.” 

Express Laundry Center is a turnkey vended laundry package available only through Continental distributors that combines high-speed ExpressWash and ExpressDry equipment and multiple services with local marketing and management support. Express Laundry Centers offer a 60-minute wash/dry/fold, lower utility costs and higher profit potential, according to Daniels.

Fully attended, Machesney’s Express Laundry Centers offer drop-off wash/dry/fold and dry cleaning, in addition to their 60-minute self-service promise.

“The high spin speed of our washers makes a huge difference in moving customers through the stores,” he says. “People say our dryers are fantastic, but the reason their laundry dries so fast is because the washers work so well.”

In terms of equipment mix, Machesney keeps it simple. He relies on a combination of 20-, 40- and 90-pound washers in all of his stores. This capacities mix works well for customers and simplifies training processes for employees, he says.

Ever-expanding and improving, Machesney juggles multiple businesses and projects. Most recently, he completed the development of two new Express Laundry Centers, located next to Pratt Abbott drycleaning outlets in Yarmouth and Windham, Maine.

CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENT AND ROI

Following the current path, Machesney says the company will continue to look for opportunities in acquisition, improvement and development.

“We like to diversify our assets and control our destiny,” he explains, “so in addition to having the three different segments of garment care industry, we invest in commercial real estate to control our locations and further diversify our assets. We absolutely want to continue to grow and solidify our market. If you can do something you like and be profitable along the way, that’s the ticket.

“I didn’t look to get into the business to clean clothes,” he continues. “I wanted to run a business and I knew we needed enough size and infrastructure to do it right. I have 160 employees and five direct reports, and we try to make it a fun environment.”

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.

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