CHICAGO — After owning and operating a self-service laundry for a bit, thinking about adding another store might come pretty naturally. Acquiring Store No. 2 and beyond would offer greater money-making opportunity but also require more work and resources for each to provide the level of service that generates profits.
If thinking about pursuing multi-store ownership, it makes a lot of sense to do so armed with the knowledge of any successes or failures from the first go-around. In that light, American Coin-Op interviewed some laundromat owners about their multi-store experiences and what they’ve learned through the journey.
Part 1 introduced the owners and briefly described why they chose to pursue multi-store operations. Let's continue with Part 2:
ADDED WEIGHT OR IMPORTANCE?
It’s a transition going from a single store to two or more, and that shift sometimes brings added weight or importance to certain aspects of ownership.
“We quickly realized that maintaining and cleaning two stores is more challenging than one, but we quickly adjusted,” says Lori Wagner, who, with husband Erich, owns and operates a pair of unattended Hilltop Laundromats in Southgate and Newport, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. “It doubles the workload to some degree, but the basic operational structure was already there.”
Employees and payroll took on greater importance as Edgar Vasquez’s portfolio grew to four North Carolina stores, now down to two: Mountain Wash Laundry in Shelby and High Spin Laundry in Charlotte.
“(There was) more work on my part in preparing payroll and finding good employees. Also, with four laundromats, (there was) quadruple work in preparing my documents for the accountant to do my tax returns.”
“On the very first store, we realized that if we are heading in a right direction, if we want to expand, we’d carefully find a location very close to the first location within the 20-mile radius where we have our four stores,” says Sunitkumar Vashi, who has an ownership stake in the attended stores in the Greenville, South Carolina, area, with another under construction in nearby North Carolina. “Not only that, we had started giving training to the manager of my Berea location who would be becoming the manager of my Greenville store.”
“Branding was very important to us. We knew from the onset that we wanted to use the same name, same colors, and same customer experience for every store,” says Joe Dan Reed of the eight Splash Em Out stores he and wife Kelli own in the Kentucky communities of Lexington, Richmond and Nicholasville. “We have done a good job of branding, because our customers know they will have the same experience when entering any of our stores. They know when entering a Splash Em Out Laundromat, it will be bright, clean, and (offer) great customer service.”
And what about his employees? “If I take one employee, team member, and put them across to … any store, it’s the same exact thing. The only difference is they need to know where the (circuit) breakers are,” he adds.
HARD TO GET A HANDLE ON
Prepare as one might for the growth, the logistics of overseeing multiple sites that can be miles apart sometimes presents challenges that it can take a while to get a handle on.
For Vasquez, it was finding dependable employees and addressing customer complaints: “The more locations you have, the issues you normally address in having a laundromat will multiply depending on the class of customers the future locations will have and how dependable (is) the equipment you inherited or purchased will be.”
For the Wagners, accounting took some adjustment, Lori says: “For example, how to attribute expenses and supplies to each store so that you can see profit/loss for the individual stores. Another thing was a question of priorities. When a machine breaks down at two different stores, which one do you fix first?”
Reed says making sure all machines were working properly was also something he struggled with initially: “Having a plan, and knowing how to work on the washers and dryers. I would also say having a good team around you is essential in this business if you are going to have (multiple) stores.”
In Part 3, coming Jan. 17: Finding power in unity
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].