CARTERSVILLE, Ga. — In May, The Washroom Laundromat celebrated its first year of serving this community located about an hour’s drive northwest of Atlanta. The 3,500-square-foot, attended self-service laundry is owned and managed by Cindy Thompson.
Thompson came into the industry with an ample business background. She worked 15 years in outside sales for a residential lighting company before transitioning into an administrative role for a construction business that enabled her to work from home while also raising her children.
Familiar with the Laundromat business thanks in part to a family friend who owned some stores, she explored getting into the industry herself several years ago. But when the U.S. economy went south, she decided the timing wasn’t right.
Once the outlook improved, Thompson saw the opportunity to build something that would enable her to work outside the home.
“It was something we’d really always looked into,” she says. “The economy was better. This side of town needed something like this. It kind of just gave me my own thing.”
The Washroom was built in a strip center that also includes a liquor store. The project began in December 2017 and was completed in roughly six months.
“I’m in a little two-suite strip that is right beside probably one of the busiest Ingle’s (grocery stores) in the Southeast,” Thompson says.
Hawkins Construction served as general contractor, and Thompson acquired the store’s Speed Queen wash/dry equipment from distributor TLC Tri-State Laundry.
There are 30 front-load washers and 16 dryers (30 pockets). Breaking down the capacities, there are 10 20-pounders, 10 40-pounders, 8 60-pounders and two 80-pounders. On the drying side, there are 10 45-pound stacks, four 30-pound stacks and two 75-pounders.
Speed Queen Insights is integrated into the equipment, which enables Thompson to monitor and control the machines using a website and to build customers’ store loyalty by offering a mobile payment app; The Washroom gives a customer putting $20 in their account another $5 in rewards, for example.
“When I opened, the first three or four months, I had coins only,” she says. “You know and I know, everything is on your phone these days. So I take coins and, through the Insights app, I can operate the machines through an iPad I have, or I can operate from my standalone computer, or I can operate my machines from my phone.
“If I’m not here and there’s a malfunction anywhere, I’m going to know about it.”
Thompson employs four attendants who work staggered schedules, plus she’s in the store “pretty much every day.” Her staff has access to an iPad they can use to log into Insights and start machines for customers or for their own wash-dry-fold processing needs.
Store hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
A veteran of flipping houses, Thompson put those talents to use when helping to design and decorate the facility.
“For instance, I have a little bar area because I’ve got some window frontage. I said, ‘Well, I’ll just make that into a bar area.’ Underneath that, I put stone on the walls.”
She decided against using tile in her store, choosing instead to stain the concrete floors and to use tin and stained wood trim in and around the bathrooms.
It’s fair to say that The Washroom has her touch: “Look, I have a chandelier in my Laundromat,” she adds, laughing.
Flatscreen TVs, free Wi-Fi and vending machines help complete the air-conditioned store.
She was quite accustomed to the requirements of a residential construction project, but Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations added another layer when working on the commercial business.
“Sinks, water faucets, mirrors, even down to my coin machine, have to be at a certain height,” she says.
The Washroom’s wash-dry-fold business draws from a county of 60,000 people, plus industry that frequently brings visitors from out of town. Thompson estimates that wash-dry-fold accounts for one-quarter of her business.
“We have a lot of contractors in this town, because we have a Georgia Power plant,” she says. “When Georgia Power goes on a shutdown, they have more contractors in town doing maintenance on the equipment. ... They have a lot of work shirts.”
The LakePoint Sporting Community also brings a lot of visitors to Cartersville to play in or watch team sporting events, plus The Washroom has become a regular stop for drivers working for two large trucking companies, according to Thompson.
She says the first year of operation at The Washroom exceeded her expectations.
“The feedback that I get from people, it makes you feel so good when they pat you on the back and say, ‘Omigod, I love your place. I’ve been telling all my friends about you.’ I know I still have a ways to go but business is good. I cannot complain.”