HAWTHORNE, Calif. — It’s not every day that you shake hands with a store operator who owns almost as many thoroughbred racehorses as laundry machines. And when those washers and dryers are housed at a Laundromat-gym tandem pumping water and iron 24/7, you know that guy is one of a kind.
Owner Jerry Jamgotchian calls out as I walk through the main entry of his Coast Laundry, a 7,000-square-foot behemoth just south of Los Angeles International Airport. Little did he know I’d already spent the better part of this early Sunday morning washing a load while admiring the neighboring Coast Fitness and its footprint nearly seven times that of the Laundromat.
Much as I was tempted to talk about the sport of kings with this prominent and outspoken figure in the racing community, today would be all about Jamgotchian’s clean and fit trifecta.
PUMPED MILLIONS INTO FITNESS COMPLEX
All the iron on the Coast Laundry floor might be no match for the weights, barbells and dumbbells over at Coast Fitness.
Jamgotchian pumped $7 million into the complex following the departure of his former tenant, LA Fitness, and built up a membership base 5,000 strong with state-of-the-art exercise apparatus and a diverse menu ranging from boxing and boot camps to hot yoga and Zumba.
The dual-level gym also boasts a juice bar, kids club, outdoor sports field, and other amenities spread over 45,000 square feet.
On an average day, the owner reports hosting 1,500-1,800 exercise enthusiasts, with males edging out females 55% to 45%. And all those bodies translate into a healthy boost at the Laundromat: “It’s a natural extension,” Jamgotchian explains. “Members come in, do their laundry, work out and come back.”
Coast staff will transfer completed wash loads to dryers upon request as an accommodation to those multitasking during a single visit to the plaza.
Jamgotchian is focused on using the club as a catalyst to expand personal wash-and-fold trade at his new Coast Wash + Fold outlet. To him, clothing is very much a part of the fitness routine, where extra garments are packed at home and pulled out of the car. He’s betting his dedicated storefront will entice members to load more: “They’ll say why don’t I just take all my clothes.”
E-mail blasts and other incentives to acquaint members with Coast Wash + Fold are in the works.
“I would think the guys don’t want to do laundry or don’t know how to do it,” he says with a smile.
And beyond his built-in fitness clientele are markets to the east and west of Interstate 405, teeming with workers at aerospace, technology and logistic firms — all potential walk-in regulars or pickup-and-delivery candidates.
Cleaners and valets catering to the area’s lucrative corporate parks charge $3 to $4 per pound to process loads, notes the owner, whose game plan is for Coast to compete on price, quality and convenience.
Traffic generated by the 24-hour laundry-fitness duo overlaps occasionally on Monday and Tuesday evenings, Jamgotchian reports, filling up most of the lot, but not to the point of congestion.
Parking is critical, he says, gesturing to a striped area at the plaza’s west end, where a building was razed to add stalls not only for the shopping center tenancy, but for overflow generated by a Burger King outlot and his adjacent sports pub.
Jamgotchian owns the dirt beneath his businesses and knows real estate. Decades ago, he traded mortgage banking for a career in commercial property development and leasing at a top national mall operator.
He later built up a personal retail portfolio and pursued his other passion with stables of professional racehorses.
The Hawthorne site where Coast calls home caught his attention when a Safeway grocery pulled out, leaving the balance of a 25-year lease up from grabs. He bought it, secured new tenancy, and later parlayed that success to acquire the entire center.
Among those occupying space was a neglected 4,000-square-foot laundry causing security-related issues and endless headaches.
“One of the things that disturbs me most about this business is that, as a landlord, it’s a disaster to have a bad tenant or a tenant that has no experience in running a Laundromat,” he says. “As a landlord, I recognize it’s critically important to have good and experienced operators or you’ll have issues.”
Jamgotchian eventually evicted the tenant, completely rehabbed the space, and later expanded the operation to its present state.
With his reinvestment in the Laundromat and fitness anchors, rebranding of a local watering hole into a trendy sports-themed craft beer bar, and the recent cleaners makeover, Jamgotchian now finds himself operating three-quarters of the enterprises on-site.
“I believe in the area and I believe in the businesses,” he tells me as we walk the plaza. Corporate titans like SpaceX continue to invest in the corridor, bringing with them more commerce to this stretch of El Segundo Boulevard.
The 405 Freeway leads patrons to his doorstep, evidenced by Yelp online rating reviews that the operator monitors and promotes in his marketing campaigns. “We make four-and-a-half out of five people happy and that’s what is important to me,” he says.
Jamgotchian credits industry veteran David Horton with sharing his vision for Coast Laundry: “He and I embarked upon developing the best laundry we could. We did everything we believe the customer deserved and the customer deserves the best 24/7, 365.”
Horton, who spent much of his career with West Coast laundry equipment distributor PWS, also played a pivotal role in designing the new drop-off facility.
Respecting patrons and providing them with clean, functioning equipment keeps Coast humming, the owner says, adding that he’s especially proud to draw regulars from as far as 20 miles away.
While I didn’t find anyone shuttling between the Laundromat and fitness club on this particular morning, I did get a comment from a patron named Julia who tells me she’s getting plenty of exercise: “You see all these baskets of clothes I’m doing? That’s enough of a workout!”
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.