How to Start a Coin-Operated Laundry

Setting Yourself Apart

Consider giving your store a theme or a gimmick. For example, one store in San Francisco plays classic black-and-white movies on their TV, and the walls are covered with photographs of movie stars from the 1920s and 1930s. Another store in Texas displays the owner's collection of antique laundry equipment. Iowa City, Iowa, laundry owner Brian De Coster chose humor: He plays comedy channels on his TVs and places signs with clever puns, such as "We have a dryer sense of humor" and "We never clothes." (His store is open 24 hours.)

A theme gives your store more personality; customers will remember it, and they'll find your laundry a more interesting place to come to. A clever gimmick may also get you some free publicity from the local press. If you want to create a gimmick for your laundromat, think about who your customers are and what sort of theme they will appreciate. One owner in Southern California, with customers from all over Latin America, hung his laundry with flags from several of his customers' native homelands and started serving traditional Latin American food.

For the Little Kids
Many laundry owners are realizing that they can increase business by providing a play area for children. Often, customers need to bring their children to the laundromat, so giving little ones something to do makes the laundry chore much easier on parents. Having an area set aside for children can also help keep them from running around and possibly getting hurt or damaging equipment.

Collette Clarkson and her partner have a play area for children. They have a TV with a VCR, children's videos and toys. "We wind up picking up a lot of toys," she says, "but they love it."

If you want to put in an area specifically for children, check with your insurance agent and your city or county officials regarding liability issues. These professionals should be able to tell you how to design the area to maximize safety and make sure you won't be responsible in case a child gets hurt. In fact, you may need to place signs saying you're not responsible for children's safety.

For the Big Kids
Even adults will get bored at a laundromat. After all, mostly what they are doing is waiting around for clothes to wash and dry. Many laundries these days have one or more TVs mounted to the wall. Some laundries keep the TVs tuned to one channel, some play videos, and others let customers change the channels themselves.

If your laundry is unattended and you want to let customers change the channel, mount the TV low enough on the wall so they can reach the channel and volume buttons. Customers are likely to walk off with a remote control, even if it's tacked to a table.

Many laundry owners also have pinball and video games for their customers. Clarkson says a video game vendor approached her about having a videogame console in her store. He put a machine in at no cost to her, and they split the profits 50-50. "We've seen as much as $300 a month off the video game," Clarkson says. They change the game every so often to keep customers from getting bored.

Snack Time
It's likely that your customers will get hungry and thirsty while they're waiting for their laundry to finish. Even if your store is near a shopping area, many customers wisely don't want to leave their clothes. So vending machines with sodas, chips and candy fit the bill. You can buy a vending machine, fill it yourself and take all the profits. Or you can contract with a vendor who will provide the machine and snacks and split the profits with you. Ask your distributor about vending companies in your area.

Clarkson and her partner decided to put in a snack counter rather than vending machines. They offer their customers-and anyone else who comes in-a soda in a glass with ice, along with candy bars and chips. The partners chose to go that route after talking with other laundry owners. "In interviewing other people, we found that [they] didn't like cans, they liked a fountain drink," Clarkson says.

They sell the snacks at a low cost because their store is next to a mini-mart. "If we had the same prices or higher, everyone would just go next door," Clarkson says. Still, their snack business is brisk enough that it brings in $30 to $60 a day. "Our Pepsi distributor says we do more [business] than some of his restaurants." Having the snack counter also improves customer relations, she says. "Our customers really appreciate the cheap prices."

Coin-Operated Laundry Resources
Associations
Coin Laundry Association
International Fabricare Institute

Magazines and Newsletters

  • American Coin-Op
  • The Journal
  • Coin Laundry News

Manuals

  • California Coin Laundry Association Owner's Manual
  • California Coin Laundry Association Reference Manual

Websites

  • Coin Laundry Association bulletin board
  • Coinwash.com (a bulletin board for laundry owners and marketplace of laundries for sale)

How to Start a Coin-Operated Laundry

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