A Bit of Commercial Success (Part 1)

Paul Partyka |

CHICAGO — Ernie and Rose Mathes operate two card laundries in Tacoma, Wash., while Adrian Notaro runs a small store in Scottsdale, Ariz. Two seemingly different operations, yet they share a common trait: success with commercial accounts.The Matheses opened their first store in 2006, and run 2,900- and 4,500-square-foot stores. They have accounts with doctors, dentists and nail salons, processing a lot of towels, along with some linen. During busy times, they handle about 1,000 pounds of commercial work a week, utilizing 60- and 80-pound washers.Notaro opened his 1,200-square-foot store six years ago, and began seeking commercial work almost immediately. He has tackled a variety of goods, although he mostly deals with medical-related items (X-ray gowns, sheets from chiropractors, etc.). During a normal week, he processes 1,000-1,500 pounds of work, utilizing 40-pound washers, his largest machines.These owners recently addressed a variety of topics pertaining to their commercial service.THE RIGHT ITEMS“Dog groomers were a challenge,” recalls Ernie Mathes. “Some of their towels were nasty.” Towels are the easiest to handle, he says, while “the hardest things are uniforms and any steaming work.”Notaro likes to steer clear of restaurant work. “The grease is just too tough to deal with. I pass restaurant work off, rather than have customers disappointed with my work.” In addition to medical gowns and sheets, he prefers salon and spa items. Surprisingly, he says drop-off customers are “pickier” than his commercial clients.CLEANING KNOWLEDGENotaro has benefitted from two sources: the Internet and his attendants. “My attendants have all had some type of stain-removal knowledge.”Ernie credits the Coin Laundry Association with providing a good deal of his stain-removal know-how. “We attended a stain-removal seminar and a folding seminar. Most of our knowledge is through them.”Rose Mathes admits to dealing with a few tough stains, but networking with other operators has led to successful solutions.AVOIDING TROUBLEAlways keep your drop-off orders separate from your commercial accounts, Rose cautions. When things slow down at the stores, it’s essential that you put your attendants to good use, Ernie says. “We limit the number of big machines that our attendants can use, so that the customers can use them,” he adds.Pricing is an area of concern, admits Notaro. “Don’t overreact if another owner tries to undercut you with low prices.”EQUIPMENTNotaro utilizes his largest equipment, 40-pound washers and 50-pound dryers, to process commercial orders. “People have told me that I’m not set up to deal with this work, but we make due with our five 40-pounders. Larger equipment would be nice, but we’re maxed out with space.”Ernie prefers using the largest equipment (60- and 80-pound washers) for a number of reasons, including the fact that it’s cheaper per load than the smaller washers. “The 30-pound washer would cost more per pound of laundry. Watch your costs, and tell your customers about this.”DEADLINES“We bring work in seven days a week, picking it up and delivering it,” says Ernie. “We provide, for the most part, next-day service. Deadlines are not a big problem.”Twenty-four-hour turnaround is normal, says Notaro, and same-day service is even possible. “We have some gaps with our deadlines, and all work is done during our normal hours, 8 to 6.”The work can pile up “almost to the ceiling” on certain days, he admits, but having enough help solves this problem. Three to five people (counting the driver) usually work on commercial work.Please check back Friday, October 8 for Part 2 of this story. 

About the author

Paul Partyka

American Coin-Op

Paul Partyka was editor of American Coin-Op from 1997 through May 2011.


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