SCHOHAIRE, N.Y. — Self-service laundries located in smaller communities or rural or remote locations don’t have the vehicular or foot traffic numbers of their big-city brethren. Opportunities to garner business may be fleeting.
These small-town businesses are often community-minded and place a premium on building personal relationships with the members of their customer base. Let’s meet one of them today.
IN THE WOLFE’S DEN
John Wolfe, with wife Nancy, owns and operates Wolfe’s Laundry Den in Schoharie (pronounced skoh-HAIR-ee). The village of roughly 1,000 people is located some 40 miles west of Albany, the state capital, and Wolfe estimates the business draws customers from a 30-mile radius.
2021 marks the retired couple’s eighth year in business. They acquired the laundromat two years after 2011’s Hurricane Irene, which flooded the area and filled the building with 52 inches of water.
“We gutted it. All we had left was four walls and a ceiling,” Wolfe recalls. “A laundromat has been located there since 1967.”
Today, the air-conditioned, 3,000-square-foot store offers 15 front loaders ranging in capacity from 30 to 80 pounds, a couple of top loaders, and 24 dryers. Besides its walk-in business, Wolfe’s offers fluff and fold on large items like bedding and provides pickup and drop-off drycleaning service.
The Wolfes grew up in Schoharie, so they know their community and its people well.
“I think knowing our customers, personalization, (is a benefit),” John Wolfe says. “We work it so that I do the morning shift, 8 to noon. My wife is there 8 to 5, then I go back down and help her clean up. The best thing about a small community is everybody gets to know everybody.”
He estimates they know 90% of their customers, and this familiarity instills a desire in customers to take care of the store.
“They treat the equipment better, keep it cleaner,” he says. “If we leave for a few hours to run an errand and come back, we can tell the type of clientele that’s been in there by how bad the store is.”
The Laundry Den’s nearest competition is four miles away in Middleburgh. The Wolfes did some newspaper advertising when they first opened but now let word-of-mouth do the marketing for them.
“We offer clean, friendly service,” he says. “They like our laundromat because we spend the time to keep it clean. That is the big key that I would pass on to anybody.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, Schoharie residents looking for a laundromat had to travel elsewhere to find one. But those days are just a distant memory.
“It means everything to our local community,” Wolfe says of his small-town business.
If you missed earlier parts of this story, you can read them here: Part 1 – Part 2
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected] .