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The More the Merrier (Part 1 of 2)

CHICAGO — If you finally have a handle on running one self-service laundry, have you thought about adding a second, or even third, store? Are you worried about overextending yourself? Does experience make the store-add-on process a bit easier?

Three owners share their views on the various challenges that running more than one store present.

New vs. Existing Stores

Phillip Viccinelli, a multiple-store owner in Texas, studied demographics and built his stores. He went new for several reasons, such as being able to get exactly what he wanted and to control his own destiny.

“If I rent, when the lease ends, I could be out,” Viccinelli says. “I’m not going to invest in something and maybe lose them.”

John Brennan, a multiple-store owner in the Tampa, Fla., area, invested in existing stores. “I like having the customer base and store history,” he explains. He prefers larger stores (3,000 square feet and larger), but would consider purchasing a smaller store if it were doing good business.

Jimmy Brinkley, a multiple-store owner in South Carolina, maintains stores that are “a little bit of everything.” With financing difficult to obtain today, he admits to pulling back a bit when it comes to adding new stores. When shopping, he cautions operators to keep a close eye on a prospective store’s energy costs.

The Ideal Store

What makes a good store for these owners?

Although Brinkley’s stores have different names, they have certain things in common, such as the type of paint used in some cases. While Brinkley favors a certain equipment mix (no top loaders, but high-extract washers and highly efficient water heaters), he doesn’t ignore demographics when equipping a store.

Brinkley likes to compete with new stores. “I’m not nice to competition,” he admits. He also admits that he’s not afraid of being a price leader. “Some people are afraid of pricing and making money.”

If you visited Brennan’s stores, you wouldn’t know he owned all of them, he says. Some of his stores have certain things in common, such as floor mats and signage. But his “look” also depends on the demographics.

More importantly, he stresses the value of experience. “Once you have one store, the second one is easier for you. Everyone makes mistakes at first. I learned a lot from my first two stores. There were no major mistakes, but I learned how to deal with employees; knowing when to get rid of them. I don’t put up with [bad employees] anymore. There are people looking for work.”

Viccinelli isn’t interested in a store of less than 3,500 square feet, because he believes small, unattended stores will be phased out in the future. “If I can’t do this size, I can’t afford an attendant at all times.”

Viccinelli’s stores were designed by the same architect and feature the same basic design (floor, equipment, lighting, etc.), despite slightly different floor plans. “However, you can tell the stores are mine.”

Building the second store was easier, he adds.

While Viccinelli branded his stores, he also realizes that this could be difficult for others, depending on the store location. “If you go into a strip mall, or lease, the equation changes.”

Click here for Part 2.

Phillip Viccinelli

Phillip Viccinelli prefers new stores. New stores allow him to control his own destiny, he says.

John Brennan's existing store

John Brennan prefers buying existing stores because they have a customer base and history.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected] .