Store Ownership: Branching Out (Part 3)

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Art Jaeger’s Santa Clarita Laundry Center opened in June 2007. (Photos: Art Jaeger)

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His Oaks Laundry Center offers customers the option of injecting ozone into their wash.

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The Simi Valley Laundry Center is Jaeger’s largest store.

Bruce Beggs |

California’s Jaeger on second go-around in vended laundry

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — Is your laundry business ready to open its next location? And if you’re already a multi-store owner, would opening another location be a viable business strategy?

Making the decision to invest in and open a vended laundry can be life-changing. But what about doing it again … and again … and again? Adding more stores can mean more revenue but it can also mean that the management issues you’ve been dealing with on a single front will be multiplied.

American Coin-Op interviewed five multi-store owners from around the country to learn about their operations and seek their advice about branching out. Featured here in Part 3 is Art Jaeger, owner of three Laundry Centers in the state of California.

CARD-ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Jaeger is on his second go-around in vended laundry in California. The former record company executive opened two stores in 2004 and a third in 2005 before selling them all in late 2005 for what he called a “very strong profit.”

As time passed, Jaeger realized how much he liked being a small-business owner and that the vended laundry business was still right for him. “I had a much stronger idea of what I felt would work for me,” he says. “I had a much better understanding of where I could do better, in both design and location, and customer service. I then built three more stores.”

They are the Santa Clarita Laundry Center (5,400-square-foot store opened in June 2007, 59 washers, 60 dryer pockets), the Oaks Laundry Center (3,000-square-foot store opened in August 2009, 38 washers, 40 dryer pockets), and the Simi Valley Laundry Center (6,000-square-foot store opened in November 2013, 60 washers, 51 dryer pockets).

Jaeger favors Continental Girbau laundry equipment, and all three of his fully attended, card-only stores feature Card Concepts payment systems. Whereas his first three stores were all named Santa Fe Lavanderia and themed similarly, he chose to name this second trio based on where they were located, so it would be easier for potential customers searching the Internet to find a store in or near their community.

“If you would walk into it, you would know it’s my store,” Jaeger says. “They all have similar design elements, similar materials, similar feel. … Each store design is improved upon the previous one in terms of customer flow, location, even including vending storage and where the vending machines go.”

If he drives a “loop” and visits all three of his stores in one day, he covers 96 miles, Jaeger says. He works 200 to 220 hours a month (his time is generally split 70/30 field to office), and virtually every day, but hiring additional personnel has enabled him to take Saturdays off.

He’s reduced his workload by hiring a manager who has taken on some of the collections and managerial duties, plus a driver/handyman who does some of the purchasing as well as commercial account pickups/deliveries and equipment maintenance. Between the three stores, he employs 15 people.

“Each time you own a store, your problems multiply,” Jaeger says. “Every store has X number of problems every day. … When you put everything into it, I realized it was a full-time job, with the third store.”

Owning a vended laundry provides a person the experience to open a second and so forth, he says, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one must do that.

“I think somebody who has a previous store has a tremendous knowledge base and understanding of what it takes, and the most important thing that they have to do is find a situation that’s totally going to work for them before they move forward. But by owning one store, you should not have the pressure to open a second store.

“You can wait until you have the perfect location, and then combine that with being able to negotiate the perfect lease, and combine that with having acceptable construction costs, and combine that with feeling comfortable in your equipment acquisition negotiations and have your financing in place before you pull the trigger.”

Check back Thursday for the conclusion featuring Alabama store owner Kent Walters

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

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