One Day at a Time (Part 1 of 2)


One Day at a Time
One Day at a Time

Paul Partyka |

ROCKY HILL, Conn. — When opening a self-service laundry for the first time, many owners discover the challenge of multitasking. Nancy Sousa’s challenge is maintaining a successful business while dealing with being a seven-time cancer survivor.
The Town Line Laundromat, Rocky Hill, Conn., opened in July. About seven weeks prior to the opening, Sousa, diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, discovered that she had metastatic breast cancer in her bones.
Previously, the cancer had been confined to her breast and lymph nodes, and in each of the six cases she underwent surgery and treatment. Her battle now shifts from cure to management, as one would do with diabetes or kidney disease, she says. “I’m feeling fine. I go for treatment three times a month.”A NEW START
When Sousa, a member of corporate America for more than 17 years, was downsized, it was time for a new direction. After 10 months of looking for a job, she decided to create a job herself. The result: a 2,100-square-foot laundry with an abundance of amenities and an accent on efficiency.
Sousa staged an elaborate grand opening in October, celebrating both her new store and breast-cancer awareness. The event featured food, a band in the parking lot and raffles to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Connecticut Race for the Cure.
“I wanted to raise money and create awareness [about breast cancer], so I combined the opening with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We sold raffle tickets for TVs and even had pink laundry bags. We created a buzz for both things.”
As a special touch, the store signage includes a poster informing patrons that one in eight women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives.
“As a business, it’s important to give back to the community and support a cause.”
Sousa was pleased with the response. The celebration attracted current customers as well as curious, first-time visitors, she recalls. “The store was jammed, and the energy was high. It was a huge success, and I was very happy about it.”REASONS TO CELEBRATE
The store, located on a busy corner, opened July 22, and from the first day to the grand opening, she says there has been a good customer response. Food and shopping options surround the store.
“There was a need for a Laundromat, even though I have competitors around me (four competitors in a five-mile radius). But some of the stores are old and need retooling. I also saw a big need for wash, dry and fold, which is currently doing well.”
Customers get all the bells and whistles at Town Line Laundromat. In addition to drop-off service, the card-operated store features flat-screen TVs, free WiFi, complimentary coffee, reading material, drycleaning and executive shirt service. “My vision was [creating] a one-stop store for all laundry needs.”
When Sousa says she tried to put herself in her customers’ shoes, she means it. During her due diligence, she did her family’s laundry at the nearby stores, noting each operation’s strengths and weaknesses.
“With the help of Karl [Hinrichs, HK Laundry Equipment], I was able to strike a good balance between equipment and [customer] comfort.” The laundry has 24 washers (20-, 30- and 60-pound capacities) and 26 dryer pockets (30- and 45-pound stack).
“Customers like the big machines. If I had to do it over again, I might have added a few more 60-pound machines instead of 20-pound machines. The margins are higher on the big machines, but you also need to help customers with small loads.”Please check back Thursday, Jan. 27 for Part 2 of this story.

About the author

Paul Partyka

American Coin-Op

Paul Partyka was editor of American Coin-Op from 1997 through May 2011.


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