DENVER — As a distributor, I love what I do. It’s rewarding to work with new investors and help them realize their dreams of becoming vended laundry owners. I also like that, while there is a formula for success — the right location, quality equipment, solid management — little nuances keep things fresh. For instance, buildings can challenge a distributor to come up with a layout that makes sense (flows) and can accommodate enough equipment without cramming the space full.
Even buildings with unique former lives can often work for a coin laundry. I’ve heard of former fast food restaurants and “quick oil change” structures as having enough open space for a laundry. Our company has converted hangars and even mini-storage buildings into laundries.
While I like to be receptive to outside-the-box ideas, I did have one location in El Paso, Texas, that, at first glance, I thought could never work. But it’s proof that if you employ a thoughtful approach and do things the right way, unique buildings can work.
In Part 1, I discussed store site assessment, and getting engineering help to accurately determine build-out options available at a site in question.
Equally important is having an understanding of the current utilities feeding in and out of the location. Obviously, a vended laundry’s requirements may be quite different from what the previous business occupant needed.
So a review of utilities is as important as determining the available square footage. Is there enough power? Does it have three-phase? If it has just 100-amp service, it could be a red flag. If you wanted 600-amp, could it be delivered efficiently or would it be cost-prohibitive? Does it have 6-inch sewer? How about water? What is the cost to upgrade from a ¾-inch line to 1½-inch? What is the gas service? You want to cover as many bases as possible before even thinking about equipment.
In this example, it was going to be problematic and costly to run a 6-inch sewer line out to the main line (again, significant concrete removal would be necessary). Our workaround was to add an 18-inch drain trough that would allow the store to dump all machines and let the water drain as the 4-inch line allowed.
Once you have a handle on all the elements and costs of the described, and can take a look at store design and equipment mix, this is where the real work begins. It’s important to work with your distributor to identify how much equipment and what capacities are necessary to make the revenue-per-square-foot numbers work. This will vary by market.
There are plenty of equipment salesmen out there who will sell you equipment … and a lot of it to fill up every square foot of that space. A respected distributor is far more consultative — they don’t sell equipment; they help investors develop strong, profitable businesses. They also know the value of open spaces to enhance the customer experience.
We were able to equip the long, narrow section of this store with 60-, 40- and 30-pound washer-extractors, along with front-load Horizons. And with the separating wall removed, we were able to turn the “service bay” area into a drying section with 45-pound stacks and folding tables.
The result was Northeast Laundry, and the owner has built a successful business that has garnered 4.7 stars on Google.
Not every vended laundry needs a strip mall to call home. Given the right location, unique or outside-the-norm stand-alone buildings can be perfect uses for this business. The key is to not fall in love with the building, even if it seems like a good deal and the demographics work.
Plenty of hurdles can come up in the build-out process that can quickly send costs to the out-of-control realm. It’s paramount to work with a skilled and experienced distributor who knows the right questions to ask, as well as what store layouts will balance open space with profit per square foot, based on the specific market.
With a thoughtful approach and the right experts in your corner, unique locations can deliver strong performance.
Missed Part 1? You can read it HERE.