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What’s New in Laundry Facilities Management (Part 1)

Customer service paradigm has shifted from ‘route operations’: Scarpato

WEST NEWTON, Mass. — Just as retail self-service laundry owners endeavor to best serve their walk-in and drop-off customers, multi-housing laundry operators combine best practices with hard work in an effort to serve their contracted community area laundry rooms in places such as apartment buildings, condominiums and public housing.

And like their retail counterparts, those overseeing multi-housing laundries have adapted to providing service in a pandemic environment, with its enhanced facilities cleaning and social distancing, but are looking forward to the day when things get back to something approaching normal.

Scott Scarpato is CEO and owner of Automatic Laundry Service Co., based here in West Newton, and current president of the Multi-housing Laundry Association (MLA), the North American trade association of operator and supplier companies providing professional laundry services for the multi-housing industry.

Scarpato’s father started Automatic Laundry in Massachusetts in 1963 and Scarpato has been working in the business since he was a little boy. He started as a repairman and learned the business through and through before going full-time in 1981. Automatic Laundry has expanded into New England and today serves the Northeast.

“If we’re not the largest, we’re one of the largest closely held … laundry facilities management companies in the industry and we just do our business,” Scarpato says. “Nothing fancy. We just go about our blocking and tackling every day.”

Laundry facilities management is often referred to as “route operations,” a term that Scarpato thinks is outdated.

“I think it connotes a time gone by, the coin-op washers down in a dingy basement,” he says. “Today, it’s extremely different. There’s a lot of technology packed into our community laundry rooms. The way we interface with our customers is very different. The whole customer service paradigm has shifted to an enriched experience.”

A multi-housing laundry operator or manager enters into an agreement with a facility to provide and maintain a common laundry area on the premises, according to Scarpato.

“A building owner, a condominium association, university or college housing department will reach out to a company like ours and we’d go look at the community laundry facility,” he explains. “We would submit a proposal on how to best run that. Ownership of the property … would review the proposal and if they liked the terms, they’d accept them and we would enter into a long-term agreement whereby we install and retain ownership of the washers and dryers.

“We maintain the equipment and we remit, in the form of a rent, a percentage of the receipts to cover the cost, for the building owners, for their utilities and everything. The utilities are supplied to us by the building.”

There are some differences between the equipment in a common laundry room and the equipment found in your local Laundromat.

“Some of your big high-rises is going to have equipment that’s very similar to what you see in a public Laundromat. You’re going to see tumbling dryers. You’re going to see multi-load washer-extractors. Other facilities are mainly small chassis, so you’re going to have 22-pound-capacity front loaders … and single-load dryers, stack dryers.”

Check back Tuesday for the conclusion!