MARSHFIELD, Mass. — Sometimes, cute works.
There is a wooden clapboard house on the road heading to the beaches of Marshfield and Duxbury, Mass. If it weren’t for the self-standing sign out front, and the old-fashioned barrel washing machine sitting on the ground, one might think it’s just another summer place by the seashore.
But it’s Jack’s Scrubboard Laundromat, now in its 28th year.
John Killion has run the business for 15 years. His father, Jack, started it in 1988. When Jack wanted to retire to Florida, the two made a deal. Jack owned the building, so John would pay rent to him. It’s worked, as last year was John Killion’s best, he says.
The homey look is intentional.
“I never liked the industrial look of typical Laundromats in malls,” Killion says. “This feels like home.”
Along a busy road, his business attracts a lot of patrons. The shop is open from 7 in the morning to 9 at night seven days a week. Killion lives in the upstairs apartment. Fortunately, he is Johnny-on-the-spot. Unfortunately, he sometimes gets knocks on the door during his off-hours.
“It’s all part of doing business,” he shrugs.
To service his clientele, Scrubboard has a dozen 10-pound washers (“singles”), a half-dozen 18-pounders (“doubles”) and five 45-pounders (“triples”). A bank of 18 dryers aligns on one wall. An extractor is available to service his customers with comforters, dungarees, and garments that really need to be spun out. “It costs 75 cents (to use),” he says, “and customers really appreciate that I have the machine, because not too many Laundromats own one.”
The biggest portion of Scrubboard’s trade—about two-thirds of it—is wash-dry-fold service (WDF). Many customers bring in clothes and pick up a few days later. Also, Killion maintains a WDF route that services 50 customers.
Scrubboard charges $1.25 a pound for WDF work. That high rate doesn’t scare off anybody because many of his route customers are in the affluent town of Duxbury while others are second-home dwellers of Marshfield. Renters spending a week at the beach don’t want to do their own laundry. Also, his pickup and delivery service is appreciated.
In addition, Scrubboard services a major commercial client, Fort Cliff Army Base on the cliffs of Marshfield. Six years ago, when Hanscom Field closed its laundry facilities, Fort Cliff turned to Scrubboard. Killion has been servicing the account ever since. Volume is extremely high, but he discounts his $1.25-a-pound WDF price. Still, it’s profitable business. In addition, Scrubboard services a few beauty parlors.
For all road accounts, Killion picks up one day and delivers the next. It works because the service area is manageable, all within two adjacent towns. He’s in the truck about two hours every day.
Scrubboard used to do restaurant linens but no more. That’s because staffers would throw a linen tablecloth in a bucket with spaghetti in it. The linens were just too dirty, says Killion.
“The pickup and delivery customers are long-term, and we’ve worked out the logistics,” he says. “They know when I’m coming and they leave the clothes on the porch. I pick the order up and leave it on the porch the next day. Everyone is on credit card so it’s easy to do payments. Of course, sometimes a senior-citizen customer will call me in and search for her checkbook and that (takes a little) time.”
Check back Thursday for the conclusion!