PEMBROKE, Mass. — There is a Laundromat in Jasper, Alberta, Canada, named Coin Clean Laundry. It’s the place to be.
Perhaps it’s because of the coffee bar there, called Snow Dome Coffee Bar. Perhaps it’s because of the plush chairs.
Perhaps it’s because of the bank of computers, or the paintings with price tags on the wall. Or it’s because of the book exchange. Or perhaps it’s because of its large size, more than 3,000 square feet.
Whatever the reason, it’s the place to be on a cold winter day—or on a warm summer day, for that matter—because it’s social, comfortable and cozy.
Your store probably is not like this. People go there with one task in mind: cleaning their clothes. Accordingly, they spend as little time as possible there.
Often, they put in a load and go off to do chores. But consider that, with a little tweaking, with an offering of a few services, your store could be a Laundromat/café.
BRINGING EVERYONE TOGETHER
Envision the café world. Every day, tens of millions of people drop in, spend an hour talking to friends, or spend a few hours on their computer, drinking a cup of coffee. Starbucks alone has, what, 7,500 stores? This café world is relatively new. Forty years ago, there weren’t coffee shops on every street corner. What did people do?
They didn’t hang out at coffee shops. Perhaps their socializing was done at the post office or after-work clubs. Maybe they felt it was wrong to spend time so dissolutely. So, in a sense, the coffee shop industry has revolutionized our social behavior. A high proportion of the population spends time every week in coffee shops.
So, my point is, can’t you make your store into a café? A greeting place where people meet and talk? A more comfortable space, where people enjoy gathering? A place to bring one’s computer and work? Who knows? It could become a place where someone might make a friend. I personally know one couple who met in a Laundromat and went on to become husband and wife. How many relationships do you know—spouses, lovers, pals—that began in Laundromats? It happens quite a bit.
Proximity is one key. Time is another. But a third is the atmosphere of doing a mundane task. It helps that one can’t get too snooty in a Laundromat because one does a most basic, most universal task. In a Laundromat, we are all equal.
So, taking that “equalizer” as your starting point, what do you have to do to turn your Laundromat into a cafe? I don’t mean spending a fortune, either. Depending on the size of the operation, you might do one or two or three things to make your store more café-like.
Check back on Thursday for the conclusion.