CHICAGO — Most store owners and operators make inspecting or checking their self-service laundry for safety or security risks a common practice. This makes perfect sense because a customer will choose a store in which they feel safe over a store where they don’t. Plus, the owner wants to make certain any cash flowing into the business is kept secure.
But as we take a look at store security, where are the danger areas? American Coin-Op recently polled a handful of store owners, both new and veteran, about their approaches to store security and the tools they use.
Steve Andrews is relatively new to the industry, having left healthcare sales and client management to open The Wash House in Nashville, Tennessee, in December 2018. His 4,600-square-foot store is open 24/7 and attended daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. He describes his store’s area as a “multicultural, lower-income neighborhood with a high percentage of renters that experiences unfortunate high levels of crime.”
John Giambrone owns LaundryTime in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His 6,000-square-foot store in a strip mall close to city center is divided between laundry (4,500 square feet) and drycleaning (1,500 square feet) services. Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., two employees cover opening and closing; there could be three to four employees on duty at any one time depending on how busy things are.
Tim Kerstetter owns and operates five unattended Laundromats in central New York and considers his flagship store to be the 1,350-square-foot Super Clean Laundry in Auburn.
Dave Menz owns a four-store Queen City Laundry chain in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a fifth under construction. The stores range in size from 2,500 to 5,500 square feet. The two smaller stores are partially attended, and the two bigger stores are fully attended except for a couple of hours each morning. Only the smallest, which is in a standalone commercial building that Menz owns, is open 24 hours a day.
Elizabeth Bricken Wilson owns Suds Laundry in Memphis, Tennessee. The 2,700-square-foot urban store is located in a strip mall off a main thoroughfare. Doors open automatically at 5 a.m. and become exit-only at 11 p.m. The store is staffed between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
As one might expect, these owners pay attention to store security, but how they go about it—and how often—varies.
Giambrone’s security measures are substantial: two 16-camera security systems, glass breaks, motion sensors, vibration sensors on changers and ATMs, a steel door to enter changer rooms, water sensors, remote viewing capabilities and alarm systems.
“I do not have a set schedule for assessing security risks,” he says. “We are always updating and changing. In the last month, we have added two motion sensors to cover the lower half of the store so that individuals crawling will be detected. Two vibration sensors were added to changers.”
“Since I am a new owner, I tend to be very paranoid,” Andrews says. “Some of the laundries in our area have gotten a reputation of being a place that isn’t safe. I refuse to get that type of reputation, so I am very concerned about the customer safety experience.
“On a daily basis, I religiously check my cameras (10 on the interior, four on the exterior) and review nightly activity when there is no attendant. Weekly I walk around the building to check for anything out of sorts (i.e. cameras moved or tampered with, exterior lights tampered with, any drug paraphernalia anywhere on the grounds, etc.).”
“Because the Laundromat is so close to my home, I stop by often to check on staff, say hi to customers and to see the general state of the store,” says Wilson, who regularly consults her security camera feeds.
“It is important to stop into the Laundromat every morning to check on it after the prior night,” says Kerstetter.
“We are very big on security, so I would probably classify our security as overkill,” Menz says. High-definition video surveillance and alarm systems that include panic buttons are among the tools he uses. “We believe in prevention whenever possible.”
Check back Thursday for Part 2: Areas of emphasis, and an attendant’s impact