VENTURA, Calif. — A born and bred Southern Californian, Chad Caldwell has had an interesting and varied professional life, including stints as a ski patroller, logger, server/bartender and a solar salesperson. In recent years, he’s worked as a commercial real estate agent, a role that provided him the opportunity to invest in a prime piece of real estate here in Ventura.
Caldwell bought a building in an older section of town, near a busy intersection on North Ventura Avenue, that housed a newly constructed 7-Eleven convenience store in its front half. Pondering what to do with the 4,000-plus-square-foot rear half, he spent some time researching various types of retail businesses before eventually deciding upon a Laundromat.
Caldwell’s bright, airy, new store called Olas Express Laundromat—Olas means “waves” in Spanish, something near and dear to this surfer’s heart—opened in late 2018 to positive feedback.
He thought developing a Laundromat would be a good idea given that the densely populated neighborhood includes many older residential apartment buildings that he says lack modern laundry facilities.
And these days, Caldwell figures, consumers expect their local Laundromat to be clean, bright and safe, with modern, high-capacity laundry machines and other amenities that allow them to do their laundry quickly and in first-class comfort.
To get up to speed on the coin laundry business, Caldwell attended the Excellence in Laundry Conference in Ojai, California, in 2016, and joined the Southern California chapter of the Coin Laundry Association.
At one of the monthly SoCalCLA meetings, he met Michael Ambrose, a coin laundry expert with commercial laundry equipment distributor Western State Design. Ambrose sold Caldwell on the benefits of installing Dexter Laundry commercial washers and dryers in his Laundromat.
Ambrose, who has many years of experience helping coin laundry operators successfully launch their businesses, was also instrumental in helping Caldwell decide on the equipment mix for his store.
With Ambrose’s guidance, Caldwell chose to install a number of high-capacity (“jumbo”) Dexter commercial washers and dryers to: a) serve the large families that reside in the area and b) maximize his revenue per square foot. In particular, he focused on having enough drying capacity to keep up with the washers to avoid potential bottlenecks for his customers, enabling them to get in and out quickly.
Olas Express Laundromat offers six T-350 Express Washers, 11 T-450 Express Washers, 10 T-650 Express Washers, 10 T-950 Express Washers, six T-1450 Express Washers, two T-450 Stack Washer/Dryers Express (for fluff ’n’ fold), 13 T-50x2 Stack Dryers, six T-30x2 Stack Dryers, six C-Series 80-pound Dryers, and DexterLive networking. Vend payment with either coin or card is through a Spyderwash system from Setomatic Systems.
Judging from the early reviews on social media, Olas Express Laundromat is a big hit with local customers who rave about how special the business is, particularly the customer service, Caldwell says. Other high points are the cleanliness, the décor, and the comfortable kids’ corner stocked with English- and Spanish-language books.
When asked if he was daunted by the prospect of successfully managing a brand-new venture, Caldwell explains that he comes from a long line of retail entrepreneurs who owned and managed gas stations and truck stops throughout Southern California. He says he is a “avowed people person” and understands the importance of meeting customers’ needs.
Operating hours at the attended Olas Express Laundromat & Wash and Fold are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (last wash 8:30 p.m.). The store also offers free Wi-Fi, numerous folding tables, and free parking.
And if a customer works up a thirst doing his or her wash, there’s a reverse osmosis, purified water dispenser on site.