At Lakeside Laundry, a big part of what we do is help entrepreneurs and investors start their own laundromats. We’ve written often about laundromats as a flexible, easy-to-start and high-ROI business and how we can help with every step of design and construction. Because I’m also a part owner of two laundromats, I can attest to that.
But this post isn’t about what a laundromat business can bring to you—it’s about what your laundromat can bring to your community.
To put it another way: if you’re investing in a laundromat, it’ll benefit you to invest in making your business a welcome part of your community or neighborhood. Your long-term viability depends at least in part on how your presence impacts the surrounding area.
Consider the Community
Laundromats in densely populated areas usually draw customers from within a two- to three-mile radius (in less populated rural areas, that radius is about 10 miles). Given a choice, most people are willing to drive past a nearby badly managed store right to a well-managed store a mile or two away.
When we were planning our second store location, my partners and I were lucky enough to find a great spot just off a busy intersection in a strip mall with several other businesses. It was a perfect place to build a store outfitted with Maytag equipment. There were a couple of other laundromats in the immediate area, but they weren’t well-managed. You can tell when a laundromat owner doesn’t respect their customers. Out-of-service equipment, dirty floors, not enough chairs—as if doing laundry should be shameful secret kept separate from everyday life.
Partner with Your Customers
In the laundry business, we tend to talk about customer experience in terms of added profit, like what equipment will get customers in the door or what cycle add-ons they’re willing to pay extra for. But customer experience is about more than that.
What customers want is to feel safe and comfortable. That means things like well-lit parking lots and uniformed attendants. Customers return to clean stores that have plenty of space so they don’t feel packed in. They appreciate a place they can feel good about bringing their kids to. The Coin Laundry Association estimates that families who use laundromats spend an average of two and a half hours there every week. If we can make that time less of a hassle for parents and more fun for kids, everybody wins.
It can be as simple a book corner where kids can sit and read or tables where they can do their homework. We found success when we partnered with Laundry Cares and the local library to stock a book nook and host children’s story hours. Our customers appreciate it and are more invested in keeping the store in good shape.
Invest in Where You Are
That extends to the neighborhood as well. There are few things local city council members like less than having vacant buildings dragging down their main streets. When we moved into the space that is now the Heights Laundry Center 2, it had been empty for a year and a half. From our research we learned the bar that occupied the space before us wasn’t as connected to the neighborhood as it could have been. It definitely wasn’t hosting story hours.
By looking for an existing space in the heart of a neighborhood instead of building new out on the edge, we were able to help give the area a boost. Neighborhood residents appreciate more eyes on the street and businesses appreciate the additional traffic. Since Heights 2 opened, our connected mall tenants have all told me their business traffic has increased.
I’m proud of my stores, not just because they’re profitable businesses. I’m proud of what they bring to the area. And, I’m proud of the quality I give them by creating stores outfitted with Maytag equipment. Laundry is a necessity for our customers, but we don’t use that as an excuse to cut corners. Running a laundromat on the cheap may save money in the short term but it sacrifices long-term viability. It doesn’t do the neighborhood any favors, either.