CHICAGO — Owning and operating a single laundromat takes plenty of work. Making the decision to build/acquire and run a second store effectively doubles (and perhaps then some?) the ownership challenges one faces day in and day out. But preparing for, acquiring and operating Stores No. 3, 4 and so on seems to get easier with each addition because of experience gained from running their predecessors.
That’s the consensus of several multi-store owners and/or operators interviewed for American Coin-Op. They spoke of the benefits of operational consistency and systemization; their biggest challenge when adding that second store; how technology can simplify multi-store ownership; and more.
We introduced the owners and operators in Part 1. In Part 2, they discussed the transition to owning a second store, and described how technology has helped them manage multiple sites. Let’s conclude:
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?
Owners were asked what they would do differently if given the chance to relive the events of expanding beyond their first store.
“I think tracking the age, model number and serial numbers of machines in a formal fashion would be worth some time up front,” says Anne Sechler, the operations and marketing manager for Whale of a Wash, a group of eight West Virginia laundromats.
“We definitely learned that people are everything, hiring the right people,” says Rex Anderson, who with father-in-law Howard Shear co-owns three Heights Laundry locations (two in Ohio, one in Michigan). “Make sure that you hire before you open.”
“I should have planned for a more immediate increase in traffic and hired more attendants on day one,” adds James Radovic, who owns two fully attended stores in the Florida communities of Jupiter and Stuart. “The volume of work combined with the training ... kept us off-balance for quite a while.”
“I’d recommend doing a serious due-diligence period and look into all parts of the business,” says Andy Merendino, owner of three mostly unattended but closely monitored Suds Yer Duds stores in Carneys Point and Pennsville, New Jersey. “You have to know exactly what you are buying.”
ONE PIECE OF ADVICE?
And finally, what’s the one piece of advice they’d give a store owner who is about to add Store No. 2?
“Have a plan in place to allow yourself to be replaceable,” Sechler says. “Make it easy for someone else to do everything in the event you do want to hire a team, or you are hoping to sell someday.”
“Owning the real estate, I believe, is the best business model,” Merendino says. “I gives you a whole lot of advantages over leasing.”
“Make sure you’re able to service it adequately,” Anderson says. “Make sure you can get there, or have someone who can get there, at the drop of a dime. … Make sure you have the service component handled and can service the second location.”
Of researching equipment choices and sources, Omer Khan, who co-owns three Skyline Laundromats in Atlanta with his father, Abdul, says this: “As you start to pick all your options, try to replicate that in your other stores. That’s how you’re able to kind of take a step back and be hands-off.”
“My advice is to never do a store where you have to compete against someone who has recently retooled and/or renovated, unless you 100% know the demographics are incredible and the location needs two stores or more,” says Joe Jepsen, owner of seven attended O-Town Coin Laundry locations in and around Ogden and Salt Lake City, Utah. “My other piece of advice is ‘Just do it.’ Stop thinking about it, and go look for locations.”
“Make sure you have good-quality, workable equipment,” recommends James (Clark) Sowers, who with son Randy co-owns four differently named laundromats in and around Rapid City, South Dakota. “And have two people you can count on and lean on looking after your locations.”
“Be prepared for the extra time you will have to spend,” says Radovic, “and hire good people to help you manage each location.”
Miss earlier parts of this article? You can read them here: Part 1 — Part 2
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].