PLYMOUTH, Mass. — At Mayflower Laundry, located in a former shopping plaza, it’s all about providing good customer service, says owner Neil King.
“We take care of our customers, that’s number one. We have a clean place. We are open seven days a week, 6 to 10. There’s always an attendant on duty. We have the right mix of machines, to let customers do their laundry in a hurry if they want to. We offer personalized wash, dry and fold. We have pickup and drop-off to offer maximum convenience.”
As a result, Mayflower takes in $360,000 in revenue annually. The company earns a profit out of that volume by keeping a rein on expenses—doing 25% of its own repairs, holding down utilities to 20% of volume, and having no debt. It helps that the operation depends little on marketing, rather relying on word of mouth to generate most of its business. Finally, rent plus fees are a reasonable 11% of volume.
The 2,000-square-foot Laundromat has a transportation company and a health club as plaza neighbors. It is right off the main road and has unlimited parking. Inside, the facility is clean, spacious, with many individual workstations. A ceramic-tiled waiting room contains padded seats, magazines, as well as children’s toys. Framed paintings adorn some walls. A glass-walled office at the entrance is where management and staff do their paper work. This placement allows close monitoring.
Two 50-pound dryers and 36 30-pound dryers, all from American Dryer Corp. (ADC), are positioned along one wall. Mayflower’s washers, manufactured by either IPSO or Continental Girbau, include two 75-pound front loaders, eight 40-pound front loaders, five 25-pound front loaders, six 25-pound high-speed front loaders, two 40-pound high-speed front loaders, and two conventional top loaders.
Several vending machines, including a soft drink machine, a snack machine and gum machines, stand alongside the seating area. “I don’t make much out of the Coke machine, but I fill my snack unit by going to BJ’s (Wholesale Club) and I do OK,” King says.
1,800 WASH-DRY-FOLD POUNDS WEEKLY
Keeping the customers happy largely falls on the shoulders of King’s manager, Michelle Ligue. She and her staff of four part-timers are responsible for maintaining clean premises, solving customer problems, and keeping the flow of wash-dry-fold work going. The staff processes 1,800 pounds each week at $1.10/lb.
“I’ve been here 12 years and I know most of the customers,” Ligue says. “And I know 90% of wash-dry-fold customers’ phone numbers. It’s important to keep up with the work, including in-store customers, wash-dry-fold work, cleaning, and the paperwork.
“I train them [her staff] to have a system, do one customer at a time, plan ahead as to which machines to use. The worst thing is to confuse orders. For this to work, it’s necessary to be a multitasker, because a staffer might have four things needing attention at once. We each do our own customers’ wash-fold-and-dry work, so we make sure their stuff comes to them the way they want it.
“For instance, I have a woman customer who owns a lot of rental property. She color-codes everything. She is very particular about the folding. I make sure I give her exactly what she wants. It makes a difference in staffers’ take, for 75% of wash-dry-and-fold customers tip.”
As for hiring, Ligue doesn’t hire anyone too young. An applicant should have some previous laundry or hotel experience and must be used to doing physical work to be considered. Ligue says she can tell if a person is going to make it based on the first hour of training. She is not opposed to letting people go after a day.
EXPANDING ON PICKUP AND DELIVERY
King is doing pickup and delivery for eight customers and is in the process of expanding that business. “It’s good business because it is priced at $1.35 a pound, and it gives us more to work with,” he says. “The key is to keep the customers bunched together and to develop an efficient route of pickup and delivery.” He is placing a series of eight ads that will run in the newspapers of nearby wealthier communities to build up clientele.
“Price isn’t a problem,” says King. “Many prospects are two-career households and they want the convenience and are willing to pay for it. We even have customers come in here who have washers and dryers at home, but use us because they can do all their laundry in an hour and a half. We focus on convenience in this portion of our business.”
Mayflower also does a big business in comforters because the bedding is too big for conventional machines. Cleaning dry mops for municipalities is another specialty.
Having a clean facility is key to a self-service laundry’s success, according to King; he believes customers won’t use a dirty Laundromat. At Mayflower, there’s a cleaning checklist for every shift—morning, noon, and night. Dryer lint traps are cleaned three times a day, because the presence of lint inhibits air circulation and retards drying.
King attributes the ability to control expenses to having new equipment. “Our utility costs run 20% of volume, which is 5% less than industry average. Newer machines are highly efficient, three-phase machines. It also helps that all dryers are powered by gas.”
King motivates his staff by paying them 20% of the wash-dry-fold business that they do. This keeps them turning out good product. Finally, it helps that everything is owned. Mayflower operates with a $50,000 equity line of credit, but doesn’t owe a cent on the investment.
With the company well positioned in the Plymouth-Kingston-Duxbury market, King has no plans to open another operation. Instead, he wants to build up drop-off and pickup service and continue relying on his staff to run the enterprise. This way, he only has to spend a few hours a day at the laundry and can devote more time to his real estate and other business interests.
“It’s a good business because you don’t have to be there, and you can still make money,” King says.