CHICAGO — Visibility, workflow and security are just some of the variables that impact self-service laundry design. Your store should be comfortable for customers to move around in, yet highly functional so they can wash, dry and fold their clothes and get on with their day.
While the physical dimensions of a building and other factors can limit the layout when it comes to equipment positioning, the look and feel of the space is largely open to interpretation. Walls can be painted a stark white, for example, or be home to a colorful, whimsical mural.
American Coin-Op spoke with three store owners about their approach to store layout and décor, with an eye on creating profitability by design. In today’s conclusion, we meet Brian Henderson, and Alaa El-Banna and Amie Siess El-Banna.
WITH THE CLICK OF A MOUSE
Henderson owns Wash-Dry-Fold POS and is technology consultant for Liberty Laundry, the chain of three stores owned by his family in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area.
His father, John, had designed Liberty’s first two stores, often using graph paper to scratch out the equipment layout. Soon, the Hendersons were ready to build store No. 3 on South Delaware Avenue in Tulsa.
“Since this was our third store, we knew what brand equipment we wanted, we knew the exact dimensions, we knew what furniture we wanted,” Brian Henderson says.
But he suggested replacing graph paper with an online 3D model he could build using a computer program called SketchUp (he points out that there are many good, free 3D modeling programs available).
“I drew the equipment that we wanted to scale, and that allowed Dad and I to very quickly come up with a layout that we liked, because we could just drag and drop everything,” he says.
Constructing the building while also trying to determine equipment mix was the main drive behind using the 3D modeling software.
The 4,400-square-foot steel building has parking on three sides and automatic doors. Large windows afford easy view of the rows of washers perpendicular to the wall of dryers at the rear of the building. Aisles are 8 feet wide or more.
“It’s a good thing we left it spacious because that Laundromat is within walking distance of almost a thousand apartment units,” he says. “On weekends, even though the store is extremely spacious, it is packed.”
Henderson wanted to share his design experience with other laundry owners, so he recorded a three-part, step-by-step YouTube video still available for viewing: “The reason I made the video was to demonstrate that anybody could do it.”
OPEN UP THE SPACE
With wife Amie Siess-El-Banna and father Abraheem, El-Banna owns the Bubbles aRe Us franchise, currently with five attended locations throughout the state of New Jersey, including three in Elizabeth. The newest is a 10,000-square-foot store that opened in 2017.
It features 80 washers and 43 stack dryers (86 pockets in total). Machine size ranges from 20 to 80 pounds, and El-Banna says the store’s 40-pounders are the most highly used. He chooses to position mixes of machine by size throughout a store to improve flow and cut down on customers moving carts back and forth between machines.
The Bubbles aRe Us stores range in size from 3,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet, and this newest store is the chain’s largest.
“As we started to gain more and more experience, we saw kind of a shift,” El-Banna says. “From a design perspective, what we started to notice is the more space you give people, the more people are willing to come and use your services. They leave with a smile on their face. … [Doing laundry is] no longer that dreadful of an act anymore because the atmosphere where they’re going to do it makes it a lot more appealing.”
If you study the Bubbles aRe Us stores across the board, you may notice a standardized look and feel.
“We kind of used the same colors, the same tile, the same layout, to a certain extent. Obviously, there are differences in size and shape of each location. With this store, I’m not sure what sparked it but I went to Amie and said, ‘I want you to design it. We’re not doing it the same. Just let me know what we need to get and I’ll talk to my contractors.’”
“Alaa really put together the layout,” says Siess-El-Banna, who also runs a hair salon. “I just wanted it to be bright, more modern, more open so people are more comfortable.”
Gleaming white tile is prevalent throughout, and vibrant murals cover some of the walls. A unique feature of this store is a set of automatic garage doors on one side, facing a public park across the street.
“The building was newly renovated, so we had the option to do what we wanted,” Siess-El-Banna says. “Since the park is right across the street, it’s always full, they’re always playing soccer, kids go there for school recess, we just thought it’d be nice to open it up.”
“You travel the United States and look at the Laundromats, there’s a common theme to them,” El-Banna says. “The ones that really stick out in your mind are the ones who did something unique. … We wanted that trendy West Coast vibe or urban-type feel to it.”
Bubbles aRe Us recently hosted a free laundry day for the LaundryCares Foundation. People filled the newest Elizabeth store while others lined up to wait for their turn. Despite the numbers, everything ran smoothly, El-Banna says.
“That was really a true test of our design,” he adds, “and in my mind, it definitely passed with flying colors.”
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.