HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — When you’re best known for hitting the open road in search of unique laundries, slamming the brakes on touring can put a real dent in trying to uncover the next hidden gem.
A pandemic may have forced this writer to park at home, but it didn’t halt the drive of some familiar faces. This month, I’m behind the keyboard — not the wheel — circling back to see how a handful of Goin’ with Cohen profiles are weathering these unprecedented times.
Aaron and Matt Simmons — Long Beach, California
“Residential pickup and delivery was our saving grace” were the first words I heard from Aaron and Matt Simmons when asked if the novel coronavirus took a toll on their family’s Super Suds Laundromat.
The behemoth 8,000-square-foot SoCal laundry was a stop on my tour some three years ago when the brothers were in high gear processing dozens of drop-off bundles overnight and revving up their just-launched over-the-road service. Both offerings were being driven by the duo’s homegrown software platform that has since been packaged and rolled out nationally.
Like others, Super Suds navigated the ever-changing pandemic landscape by following recommended guidance on personal protective equipment, social distancing, store maintenance and garment-handling procedures.
The public health crisis also brought about structural changes with a service counter relocation — complete with plexiglass safeguarding — and a newly installed ArtiClean Ozone Laundry System.
“We were looking at ozone as a way to differentiate ourselves from the competition,” says Aaron. “Now the ozone sanitation system is more valuable than we ever imagined.”
Brother Matt chimes in, “We made sure to educate all of our customers — self-serve, in-store wash and fold, as well as delivery. Our feeling is once they know about ozone, they’ll always use us instead of the competition.”
In the early months of the pandemic, do-it-yourself customer income dropped 25%, wash and fold a few points more, and commercial account work by three-quarters, the operators report, while their door-to-door service bucked the trend, jumping 50% and racking up 500 roundtrips a month.
Scale-tipping 200-pound-plus orders — bundled up with comforters and pillows — became commonplace, Matt notes: “People spend money keeping their bedding clean and safe.”
The residential pickup sector led Super Suds’ patriarch Sanford Simmons to add a fourth delivery vehicle to the fleet, opening the door to cater to 14 new communities. His wife Linda worked remotely, handling store staffing logistics using their proprietary software.
“Our mother knows the average pickup is 42 pounds and the average attendant can launder 275 pounds during their shift. She figures out exactly the right number of people to schedule,” Aaron explains.
Super Suds’ cashless token operation kept right on rolling when a nationwide coin shortage made headlines. Quarters brought in by customers are bagged and exchanged with needy coin-op owners.
Reflecting on how the pandemic was redefining the Laundromat, Aaron glanced back a quarter century.
“In the 1990s, our father was looking for a recession-proof business that wasn’t affected by the ups and downs of the economy or real estate cycles. I never imagined just how resilient the laundry business is. Nobody ever wants to put on dirty clothes.”
Matt echoes his brother’s sentiments while pointing to the new direction the Simmons family enterprise is headed: “We are so blessed we are in the laundry business and can take the Laundromat to people’s front door.”