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.
The building my investor wanted to show me was most recently used as a daycare. My assessment was pretty quick — I don’t think this is going to work. The investor, however, was pretty adamant – It is going to have to work, because this is where my store is going.
So the challenge was fully laid out. Upon further investigation, the site, before being home to a daycare, was a gas station. So picture a long, narrow canopied area where pumps once stood that was later enclosed, with a wall separating that area from a couple service bays. Basically, the design resembled a T.
As investors investigate buildings that might not exactly fit the vended laundry mold, their first question should be the same one I had: Can you open up the space? You have to be able to pull enough open space to make it make sense. Absent that, the unique building just may not be worth the trouble. Many owners make the mistake of filling their entire store with equipment (wall to wall and then throwing a bench in the corner) and don’t take into account having additional space for a seating area and other amenities.
While the investor was committed to making the building work, we still needed to see what we were up against. We needed to measure the rooms. From there, we had to establish if the wall separating the two spaces could be demoed to open the building up as much as possible. If you are going to move forward on a unique project, make sure you and your distributor are engaging with a qualified engineer who can accurately determine what the options are.
In this case, we were able to add load-bearing beams and remove the wall. This enabled us to move on to the additional questions on what utilities existed and what we might uncover during the demolition process. Make no mistake; the demo work on this building was incredible as we ran into 8-inch concrete block and significant amounts of concrete flooring that complicated things.
Investors/distributors want to do all they can to identify what the build-out costs will be. The goal is no surprises. Surprises during build-out can quickly raise costs higher than estimated, in addition to sending the project off schedule.
Check back Wednesday for the conclusion!