CHICAGO — For the investor looking to own their first self-service laundry, or the store owner intent on adding another to their portfolio, choosing the right location to set up shop is one of the most important decisions they’ll make.
So what are some of the things to consider when searching for the best spot to open a laundromat?
Part 1 addressed the importance of reviewing demographics and sizing up the nearby competition. Let’s conclude:
A vended laundry has certain physical requirements that not every building or location can meet. Determine what kind of infrastructure—square footage, utility availability and connections, things like that—is in place that would accommodate a laundromat.
For instance, most laundromats range in size from 2,000 to 6,000 square feet, so having a large enough physical space is necessary. They require sufficient water supply in order to fill the washers in a timely fashion and a dedicated sewer line connected to the local sewer system.
Western State Design's Bryan Maxwell, in the American Coin-Op Podcast episode “Can’t-Miss Site Selection Strategies,” says whether a laundromat covers less than a thousand square feet or is several thousand square feet in size, he’s seen stores fitting either description have success.
But it’s important that one gain an understanding of the target community, its needs, and the competition before acquiring or building an appropriately sized laundry.
“I think working with a local distributor to help you look at a location and make sure that it makes sense for you is really important,” he says. “As far as the infrastructure, as far as utilities, those types of things, it’s rare that you’re going to have the utilities that you need in a given facility. Connecting into the water and sewer system should be one of the first things that are researched in any given location.”
And when doing due diligence, be certain to find out what the local community charges in impact fees for utilities connections, Maxwell adds. They can be quite costly.
Of course, the decision between building a new store or acquiring an existing store heavily influences site selection strategy.
Building a new store from scratch means the owner-to-be can create their own place and aren’t limited by someone else’s vision about what a store should look like and how it can work, writes Howard Scott in an American-Coin-Op column, “Building from the Ground Up?” That blank slate enables one to construct the infrastructure their laundry will need to succeed.
On the other hand, buying an existing business may have its advantages, Scott writes: “For one thing, you have a ready-made turnkey operation that just requires you to unlock the door and you’re in business. You don’t have to order equipment and deal with comparing brands. If you’re lucky, you can retain the employees and reduce the chance of someone stealing from you. There’s no searching for an ideal location or negotiating with the landlord for a favorable lease.”
VISIBILITY, PARKING AND ACCESS
Assess the proposed site for its visibility, Scott advises. Does it catch the eye of passersby under normal conditions or is signage needed to point out its existence and how to reach it?
Take the time to check out potential sites at night as well as during the day. Is the area in question well-lit and can reasonably be expected to present a safe environment for customers?
Is getting into and out of the site by vehicle easy or hard? Nothing annoys drivers more than having difficulty entering or exiting, Scott writes.
“If you’re trying to reach a specific shopping center or location, or a standalone laundromat, and it’s a busy intersection and you have a difficult time making your turn from that area, realize that if you get frustrated, your customers probably will, too,” Maxwell says.
And you can develop the most modern, customer-friendly laundromat in the world but a lack of parking can pose some real problems. To put it bluntly, parking can make or break a laundromat location, according to Alliance Laundry Systems’ Dan Bowe.
“If a customer can’t find parking close to your store, they may go elsewhere,” he writes in “Site Selection Strategies,” an American Coin-Op guest column. “Find a location with head-in parking spaces that cover at least two sides of the building your laundromat occupies. For every 1,000 square feet that your store occupies, you should have four dedicated parking spaces.”
Loading and unloading laundry is cumbersome, Bowe writes, so make it as easy as possible for customers. Setting up a designated loading and unloading zone can help immensely.
“Think about practical things of people bringing in Glad bags full of clothes and where they are going to park and how they will get into the facility,” Maxwell says. “Physically, how do people do this? If it’s easy, people will come. If it’s harder, maybe people will choose another facility.”
These are just some of the things to consider when assessing a potential laundromat site. But don’t allow yourself to think that all the best spots have already been taken.
“There will always be opportunities for growth in this industry and for additional stores,” Maxwell says in the podcast. “Some markets are going to be more challenging than others, frankly, because of the impact fees … and existing competition and cost of real estate and so forth. But you know, you should always be looking and in any given market, there’s probably an opportunity.”
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].