GLENDALE, Ariz. — When first built, most laundromats look terrific. They’re immaculately clean and shiny, with all-new machines, floors, walls, tables, sign and doors. Maybe even a new storefront, as well. New mats attract many customers.
Knowing this, my best strategy over the years was to simply keep my mats looking like new. And it worked! The problem is that one must invest more time and money periodically to maintain that look and feel.
If you’ve been reading my column, you’ll see that most of the things I recommend here are just “common sense,” along with a touch of some “out of the box” solutions. In Parts 1 and 2, I offered some easy, inexpensive fix-ups. Let's turn things up a notch:
MORE ELABORATE FRESH-UPS
Change Your Washer’s Front Panels — An old trick years ago, before stainless steel front panels became common, was to bring your washer panels to an auto body shop for rust removal, priming and repainting. I did it a couple of times. Believe it or not, if you do this along with placing new decals, some of your customers will ask if you installed new equipment!
I even had stainless steel panels powder-coated. They have primers nowadays that can make paint stick well. Your mat will look completely different! Just keep in mind that if you want to go back to stainless, it will cost you to have the paint removed.
Paint Your Dryer Banks — If you close your mat for a day or two, you can bring in a professional spray painter to mask off the front of your entire dryer bank. (I never did this, but I know a mat owner who did.) Remove the doors first, plus any decorative hardware that’s difficult to mask. The painter should hang paper or drop cloths to protect the rest of the store and use powerful fans to blow out excess mist.
If your store is in a building with other businesses, check with neighbors first. You may have to start spraying after everyone else is closed. I would also check to see if you are violating any environmental codes.
Instead of painting my dryer bank, I chose to purchase all-new front panels. It was more expensive than spray-painting them, and more work swapping parts and channeling wires in some cases, but still much cheaper than buying new dryers.
Buy New Laundry Carts — If your carts are looking old and/or rusty, rubber bumpers coming off, why not buy new ones? You can try selling the old ones to a competitor (I always sold mine to other laundromats in New York City) or locally online. One manufacturer sells models that can hold RFID tags so you could track them if stolen, but it’s also a good idea to use an engraving pen to etch the store name in an inconspicuous spot on the cart.
Dress Up Your Washer Bases — If your mat has bare concrete bases (they were prevalent in NYC), you can dress them in three ways. You can simply paint the concrete, which looks great but it’ll have to be touched up or repainted from time to time. Or you tile the bases, which also looks terrific and is much more durable as long as you add corner protectors. Or have diamond plate sheets attached and molded to the bases (aluminum is reasonable, stainless steel will cost you 5-10 times more).
Vinyl Tiles for Walls — Try covering one wall with vinyl plank floor tiles. They’re cheap, easy to install, look beautiful and are durable. When properly installed on a solid wall with good adhesive, these tiles will “laugh” at laundry carts being slammed into them. But even so, you’ll still need corner protectors. You only need to tile one wall to create a dramatic effect; arranging them diagonally enhances the wall even more.
To summarize, brand-new mats give a great feeling that can really attract new customers. Therefore, keeping your mat fresh-looking is an important part of this formula for long-term success.
Laundromats need routine attention to maintain their “new look.” That’s why it called maintenance.
Miss an earlier part of this column? You can read it here: Part 1 — Part 2
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].