MONROE, Wash. — Jay Johnson and his brother, Tod, have had a rich history in commercial real estate in the town of Carnation, Wash.—a city roughly 25 miles northeast of Seattle—since moving to the area from Alaska in the late 1960s.
“My brother and I have been involved in a number of real estate ventures over the years. We built the only shopping center that the city of Carnation had ... [and] we built a number of apartment buildings in the city,” Jay explains.
The brothers then directed their commercial real estate experience toward the self-service laundry industry, building Tolt Laundry in Carnation, and Snohomish Laundry Company and Monroe Laundry Company in the Washington towns of the same names.
Little did the brothers know that their business savvy and entrepreneurial spirit would eventually catch the attention of locals, who voted their laundry businesses into the top spots of King 5/Evening Magazine’s 22nd Annual “Best of Western Washington” awards in 2014, with Monroe Laundry Company earning the No. 1 spot.
‘COMFORTABLE, SAFE, HAPPY’
Tod and his son, Scott, are not the only ones in the family to contribute to the operation, as Jay provides his experience in marketing and advertising, having spent 25 years in radio and television broadcasting, and later as a franchisee of Mailboxes Etc.
“That kind of expertise over 17 years [allows] you [to] make all the mistakes. You learn what advertising is effective and what isn’t,” says Jay. “You also understand what customer service means, and so you can develop training processes and manuals and attitudes to help your employees deal with customer issues.”
In overseeing the day-to-day operations, the family pulled in Tod’s daughter, Bobbie Jo (B.J.), who had experience managing a small business in the community.
“B.J. is very good with people [and] understands personnel,” says Jay. “[She] is an extremely good bookkeeper, and customers love her, so she’s the right person to put in front of the customer.”
Monroe Laundry Company is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and partially attended from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
B.J. oversees a staff of two attendants at the store, in addition to two other attendants at the Snohomish store.
Monroe Laundry Company runs a wash-and-fold service, and offers amenities like free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, a children’s play area and various vending machines.
Granite-top folding tables, steel walls, a rinse sink and upholstered seating contribute to the “high level of finish” that the store provides customers, according to Jay.
“We wanted to create an environment where the customer would feel comfortable, safe, happy to be there,” he says.
“The idea is to keep it clean and make it feel like a good place to be.”
The store’s level of customer service and amenities have caught on with community members, as Monroe Laundry Company was ranked by locals as No. 1 among 38 stores in voting for “Best Laundromat” in the 22nd Annual “Best of Western Washington” awards.
“[In 2013], Monroe Laundry placed third and we didn’t even know about it. We were unaware of the fact that there was a promotion going on,” says Jay.
“And so this year ... our customers were more aware of it because of last year’s exposure.”
Locals have also taken notice of the family’s other laundry facility, Snohomish Laundry Company, which came in ranked No. 4.
“It’s gratifying to win, to know that our customers feel that way about [our business] and are willing to vote for it,” says Jay.
He credits this success to the consistent customer experience that all of their laundries provide.
“All of our Laundromats are ... finished with the same level of finish,” says Jay. “You could go into all three laundries and have a similar experience.”
About the family’s business plans, Jay says, “We don’t have any actual hard plans, but we’re always on the look for an opportunity. We’re very measured about what we do.”
In offering advice to others in the industry, he says, “I think the things that are common about a business ... would be something that every Laundromat owner should consider: You need to be careful with how you spend your money. You need to be very aware of the customer and what their needs and expectations are, and be ready to change if you need to.”
Missed Part 1 of this story? You can read it HERE.