PEMBROKE, Mass. — When someone walks by your coin laundry, will they turn and look?
Does the driver passing by catch something that makes him see your place? Does anybody instinctively take notice and say to himself/herself, “Ah, a Laundromat”?
Will two passersby stop and stare at your offering, and say, “Oh, isn’t that clever”?
Do neighboring businesses know you’re here? Will they recommend you when someone asks where they can clean their clothes?
EVALUATE YOUR STOREFRONT
That’s the sort of attention you want. If people don’t notice you, they won’t patronize your store.
Studies have shown that up to a third of the population don’t know of a business’ existence in their area.
When asked about a laundry, these people would answer, “I don’t know of any around here.”
You have seen this happen yourself. You are looking for a business. Several people say they have no idea. And you find it around the corner, 50 feet away.
This lack of knowledge represents a significant number of people who go to Laundromats every week. Translation: lost business.
Even worse, an ugly, corroded, dirty storefront says: Stay away from here.
With this in mind, evaluate your storefront. Is it clean? Are there no unsightly rust spots or paint erosions, or broken wood slats?
Is the front display window large and clean? Can you see into the premises? Is the front door solid, well-oiled, easy to open and close?
No one likes to patronize a place of business with a front door that is hard to work. The customer mumbles to herself, “Fix the door—I don’t want this aggravation every time I enter and leave this place.”
Is there anything welcoming to encourage visitors? Does the door or window state your hours of operation?
Are there unsightly, discolored or scarred bricks out front? Is the overhead sign faded?
Do the awnings look like they’ve been there forever? Are the temporary signs you paste in the window attractive? Do they have borders? Do they function as decoration? Or do they interfere with the window theme?
ENLIST THE HELP OF OTHERS
Few of us can be dispassionate enough to look at “our baby” objectively. Enlist others—friends, good customers, neighboring merchants—to give you their opinion.
One of these people might point out something that you’ve had for so long that you take it for granted. Another person might give you the harsh truth: “Your place looks as inviting as a prison.”
At minimum, do just one thing to improve your storefront. This one thing must enliven your entrance. Be daring, be bold.
It might be installing and painting a lime green or aqua blue wooden border around the shop’s perimeter and around the display window.
It might be a series of plant boxes, painted bright pink, along the bottom edge of your display windows.
It might be a bank of lights that really illuminates your storefront, or a new sign that is colorful, snazzy and eye-catching.
This one thing will make your Laundromat stick out. But if you are creative, it will make your storefront truly memorable.
A lime border sets off the building, connects the parts, so that the passerby immediately turns to see what it is that’s so alive.
A flashing neon sign snags the viewer’s attention and he/she reads the flowing script to know what it is all about.
A bank of flowers encourages the passerby to stop and smell the plants, or at least look in the window.
Motorists catch changes out of the corner of their eye and take note of what it is. All these are impulses that conspire to make your shop a known commodity.
Let’s consider the first suggestion—a border painted with vivid colors.
If you can’t do this yourself, hire a remodeler. He will surely be able to build you a T-border that fits over the premises’ edges.
And with all the cementing options, he can figure out how to adhere the wood border to the building’s edges. You could do the painting yourself before installing.
Such a border effect will complement almost any material—brick, cement, stone, even shingling.
If your building front is 12 feet across by 8 feet high, that’s roughly 40 total feet of wood.
You could buy stock at Home Depot for about $100. Perhaps the project, including the wood, paint and labor, might cost you $250.
Then, consider additional touches. The following are possibilities:
- A maroon awning with your company name printed across the front.
- Wooden park benches placed on both sides of the entrance. A plaque on each bench says, “These are for the comfort and pleasure of Laundromat customers.”
- A Victorian wooden door with an oval window and large brass knocker to give the place a homey touch.
- A wooden frame overhang that juts out into the sidewalk with banners hanging from the boards that read, in consecutive order, “Clean Your Clothes Here.”
Alternatively, you might decide to have an entirely new front—a slanted, natural-wood storefront with bright green borders around the windows and doors.
Or, orange-painted bricks with purple wood trim, and a protruding sign above the door.
How about a painted surface on your existing front, depicting light blue bubbles of all sizes? Maybe a wooden front painted cobalt blue with yellow trim and the sign over the door: “Abandon all dirt ye who enter here.”
Or, a metallic, high-tech galvanized metal surface designed to look like something from outer space.
The point of this effort is to create a memorable storefront.
Of course, the real winning of customers goes on inside, with equipment reliability, orderly layout, clean premises and attendant attentiveness.
But it’s the storefront that pulls customers in.