Take a Free Ride on the Su Nueva Lavanderia Express (Conclusion)

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The Su Nueva vans used for the roundtrip Express Personal Pickup Service double as mobile billboards as they ply the streets. (Photo: Lilinette Hong)

Laurance Cohen |

Value-added service differentiates business from competition, owner says

CHICAGO — At Su Nueva Lavanderia, there are plenty of freebies: free dry, free Wi-Fi, free coffee and free hot dogs. But the one that’s literally getting customers in the door is the free ride.

Just one call from a customer and Omar Solorzano or Casey West will show up at their curb, load bundles, and whisk them off to one of the Chicago chain’s stores where they’ll help transfer laundry to a cart and bid the customer a pleasant wash day. Heading home after packing up is just as easy. And the cost for Su Nueva’s roundtrip Express Personal Pickup Service – zero, zilch, nada.

New logistical support has translated into improved service levels since the system went live earlier this year, with off-peak wait times dropping to under a half-hour and peak times within an hour, according to Su Nueva owner Paul Hansen.

He’s going the extra mile by providing a unique customer service launched 12 years ago as the brainchild of his late father Charles “Chuck,” a well-known pioneer of the Windy City’s high-capacity, large-footprint store format.

The northernmost and southernmost of Hansen’s five stores serve as shuttle bases to expedite routing.

When not on the road during their shift, drivers assist by keeping the dozens of laundry carts in tip-top shape. The vans also pull double duty hauling loads for the chain’s growing number of residential and commercial laundry accounts.

Hansen favors smaller vans for their fuel economy and lower maintenance costs; gas expenditures alone can top $1,000 per month for the hundreds of shuttle rides. He also keeps expenses in check by buying low-mileage, pre-owned vans for the fleet.

Hansen says his insurance coverage is unaffected by the service offering.

Su Nueva’s free-ride coverage area encompasses the entire Southwest side of Chicago and is offered from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. The service is extended to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. On weekends, it is abbreviated to 4 p.m.

The shuttle addresses the needs of clientele who reside outside close walking distance and have little or no access to a vehicle. Parents with children in tow and large loads is its bread-and-butter.

Claudia Miranda, who lives a half-mile from the flagship location on South Western Avenue, relies on the service each week. She says the free pickup shows just how attentive the laundry is to the needs of its customers.

“All the drivers and attendants treat me nicely,” says Miranda, who arrived by van with her 8-year-old son and was loading up four washers on this particular day. “It’s convenient and I like coming here because they always take care of me and my family.”

Asked what she would do if there was no shuttle, the mother of three says she wouldn't know where to turn: “It would be difficult for me, as I like to wash in the morning and my relative’s car isn’t available then.”

Although Hansen hadn’t put a pencil to it, he estimates that offering personal door-to-door transport adds up to less than $10 per round trip.

“If I do the math, it makes more than it costs,” he offers. “In my mind, with my average ticket at $25 to $30 per customer, it’s worth it. We run a premium operation that’s clean, and we give them the option that if they can’t walk here or don’t have access to a vehicle, we’ll be glad to come pick ’em up.”

Having a street presence shuttling patrons yields Hansen yet another bonus.

“We have two giant billboards constantly traveling around our market giving us added exposure,” he exclaims. “We’re getting busier and busier!”

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.

About the author

Laurance Cohen

Laundry Marketing Concepts

Freelance Writer

As a freelance writer, Laurance Cohen crisscrosses the country seeking out the most unique vended laundries. He served as American Coin-Op editor in the early 1990s and currently operates Laundry Marketing Concepts based in Hallandale Beach, Fla. Readers are welcome to contact him at [email protected].

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