CHICAGO — Not every Laundromat owner is strictly only that, a Laundromat owner.
While many businessmen and businesswomen find that owning/operating a self-service laundry or two is more than enough to keep them occupied, there are store owners who strive to take more onto their plates in terms of adding another business, volunteering in their local community, mentoring, you name it.
Whatever their reasons, there are go-getters who have the capacity and the drive for other pursuits. Laundry ownership was the first calling for some. For others, it’s just the latest sideline.
But any store owner worth his or her weight in quarters knows it’s all well and good to keep pushing, as long as there is work-life balance.
American Coin-Op spoke to three self-service laundry owners who have experienced or are experiencing balancing laundry ownership with other pursuits, and what they’ve learned along the way. In Part 1, we met Wisconsin’s Steve Dietzen and Illinois’ Kurt Cargle. In today’s conclusion, let’s get to know Louisiana’s Jared Johnson.
VARYING DEGREES OF SERVICE
Moving from self-service laundry ownership into a pursuit that’s more full-service is often a natural progression. But for Johnson, things kind of happened in reverse.
Johnson’s laundry career started in 2002 as a driver for Starc Commercial Linen Service. A couple years later, he was offered the chance to become plant manager, but he declined because he didn’t believe he was ready for the responsibility.
In 2006, the offer was made again, and he accepted it. He ran the Starc Commercial plant until 2013, when he became general manager for Starr Textile Services in Harahan, La. He held that post until 2015.
It was during this time that Johnson met entrepreneur Len Bazile Jr. The latter owned three coin laundries and a convenience store. He was running a commercial route out of his Kenner laundry and was looking to either grow or sell that business. Johnson heard that Starc was closing down and put Bazile in touch with representatives there.
Bazile asked Johnson to partner with him and in October 2015, Dirty Laundry Linen Service was born. The business processes table linens for party rental, event venues and caterers in and around New Orleans, the Northshore area and the Gulf Coast. It’s now exploring opportunities serving food and beverage departments in hotels.
The following year, Johnson bought into Bazile’s two Hollywood Laundry coin stores in Kenner and Jefferson, and he’s been splitting his time between the commercial operation and the self-service stores ever since.
“A typical week would consist of me spending the majority of my time at the commercial laundry. And then I’ll split a day between the two coin stores,” Johnson says. “So I’ll go over on a Wednesday and spend some time that morning in our store in Kenner and then in the afternoon in Jefferson. Both of those stores are staffed and we have a store manager in each one.”
Johnson is quick to credit the teams in place at Dirty Laundry and Hollywood Laundry for their success.
“It all starts with the team, in our eyes. The team is going to support the customers, the customers support the business, the business supports the owners, follow that circle. Without any one of those links, you don’t have that circle.”
Dirty Laundry has “really taken off,” he says, and they’ve added a production manager, executive assistant and maintenance technician over the last year.
“We’re starting to put those pieces in place in the commercial laundry, too, to give Lenny and myself some time to be able to step back. We’re firm believers that if you’re stuck working in the business, you can’t work on the business.”
While some might see tackling multiple ventures as splitting an owner’s time to the point it derails their effectiveness, Johnson believes that this type of variety keeps him interested and engaged.
Besides the two businesses, he serves as a deacon at his Slidell, La., church and works on a committee organizing the community’s big annual senior citizen celebration.
“I think it’s the mindset that I have of knowing that burnout can occur if you get focused on one thing for too long,” he says. “The big picture is obviously the laundries. We want the laundries to be successful. But if we get stuck working in the business instead of on it, then we’re not doing ourselves justice and, more importantly, we’re not doing the business justice and allowing it to grow.
“I think having these other outlets and being able to balance the time between them, it gives us time to rejuvenate the batteries so we can make sure we’re being as productive as possible.”
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.