Originally posted – Aug 06, 2013
At first glance, Bronxville, N.Y., is perhaps one of the last places one would even consider opening a coin laundry.
According to the most recent U.S. Census figures, the median household income in Bronxville is $144,940, and the median family income is $200,000 – making it one of the wealthiest and most affluent places with more than 1,000 households in the country.
In fact, this suburb of New York City, located approximately 15 miles north of midtown Manhattan, currently ranks 20th on the list of the highest income areas in the U.S. Moreover, Bronxville is on Forbes’ list of “America’s Most Expensive ZIP Codes.”
Then again, Mike Pizzuto wasn’t thinking about running a “traditional” self-service laundry when he purchased Bronxville Laundry more than a year and a half ago.
“Our main focus is on drop-off laundry,” said Pizzuto, who estimated that his wash-dry-fold service represents 80 percent of his business’ revenue. “We’re about providing a service for working families.”
Bronxville Laundry offers two types of wash-dry-fold services – a $1-per-pound service that uses the store’s basic “house” detergent, and a premium service, which uses Tide and Downy and costs $1.25 per pound.
Also, as an extra service to his customers, Pizzuto hangs dress shirts, sweaters and any other delicate garments, and then wraps these finished items in clear plastic.
“We do this as a courtesy to our customers, for no extra charge,” he said.
In addition, Pizzuto offers offer free pickup and delivery to his drop-off customers.
“I use PayPal Mobile on my iPhone, so I can accept credit cards when I deliver the laundry,” he explained. “This works great, because many customers don’t have a lot of cash sitting at home. And there are no monthly fees, unlike credit card machines; you only have to pay 2.7 percent of the total bill.”
Pizzuto described his path to recent laundry ownership as leading him “from Wall Street to Main Street.”
“I’m an IT guy, currently working in the financial industry,” said the 42-year-old, first-time business owner. “I work for Fortune 100 companies in New York City. Unfortunately, due to corporate downsizing, my field has taken a huge hit, losing technical jobs to other countries.
“Rather than just sit and wait for my end date to come, I started looking for a business opportunity in the fourth quarter of 2011. I needed a business where I could maintain my day job until the end of 2013.”
This meant that any type of foodservice business was out of the question for Pizzuto.
“If you own a restaurant or a bar, the bottom line is that you’ve got to be there full time,” he said. “I needed flexible hours, where I can continue to work my 9-to-5 job. I also researched car washes, but that’s a very expensive proposition.”
In the end, he settled on the self-service laundry business – for two main reasons.
“I fell into the laundry business because my cousin, Ben Suglia, owns a couple of very successful laundries in Long Island,” Pizzuto explained. “His knowledge and expertise about the business made me feel very comfortable about my investment. Money was never the issue here, but his knowledge is something you cannot buy.”
Beyond his family connection to the laundry industry, Pizzuto liked the fact that a coin laundry is a service business.
“I wanted a service business,” he said. “In my eyes, people today just don’t have time to do their laundry, to wash their cars or even do their food shopping.
“What do you do on your weekends with your kids? You’re running around to soccer games and baseball games. Plus, people are working longer hours. At our house, my wife works from 8:30 in the morning until she’s done – she comes home from work, we eat and then she’s back on the computer working.”
Today’s time-crunched society fit perfectly into Pizzuto’s business model, which focuses heavily on wash-dry-fold services. And, with his Bronxville location, he found the perfect site to roll out his plan.
“In my region of the country, there have been a lot of good deals on laundromats, where you can buy cheap and gradually make improvements,” explained Pizzuto, who purchased his laundry in January 2012.
Bronxville Laundry is a 1,200-square-foot store within a strip mall, with several coffee shops, a Dunkin’ Donuts, a 7-Eleven, a CVS and a drycleaner. (In fact, Pizzuto isn’t allowed to have any drink or snack vending in his store, due to the other businesses with which he shares the shopping center.)
“It’s a very safe location,” he said. “I literally could leave the door open all night long, and it would be safe; however, I pay a premium for that peace of mind.”
The storefront had been a self-service laundry for years, but the previous owner was looking to get out of the business.
“The place didn’t even have air conditioning,” Pizzuto noted. “Yet, there was potential. It just needed a re-face, so that’s what I did.
“Instead of going in there and just slopping some paint on the walls like everybody does, I invested a little more money and installed fiberglass wall panels. We also got new laundry carts, upgraded the lighting, and put in new ceiling tiles and countertops.”
To save money, Pizzuto tackled most of the renovation work himself, with the help of friends. And, because they all have day jobs, the work was done at night, when the store was closed.
“We’d come in at 9:30 at night,” said Pizzuto, whose store is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. “The place isn’t large, so it’s hard to work in that space and be open for business at the same time.”
All in all, the project took about eight months to complete and cost approximately $11,000.
Of course, Pizzuto made sure that his store’s website was up and running on Day One.
“I’m an IT guy, so what do I do? I’m not doing postcards,” he said. “I’ve taken my IT background, and I’ve built my own website. I’ve invested time and money in search engine optimization.”
Pizzuto is also leveraging Yelp, Facebook and online loyalty programs like Perka to build his laundry business.
“I am targeting the smart mobile generation,” he said. “My customers have mobile devices, so that’s what I’m doing.”
In addition to his strong wash-dry-fold business, Pizzuto is keeping his machines turning with a growing number of commercial accounts as well.
“I have several commercial accounts, such as local burger joints, pizza parlors and delis – where we wash aprons and kitchen rags,” he said. “About 15 percent of my profit comes from these commercial clients. This is nice business to have, because the summer months tend to be slow months for me with many of my customers on vacation.”
According to Pizzuto, one of the keys to Bronxville Laundry’s success has been the four-person staff that processes all of those wash-dry-fold and commercial orders that pass through the store every day.
“One of our strengths is the staff,” he said. “We have very friendly attendants with great personalities.”
And with business running smoothly at his Bronxville store, Pizzuto can envision the day he opens a second – larger – laundry.
“We’re all doing more with less,” he said. “I was looking for a business where I could keep my day job, and at the same time, get a supplemental income. Because of most people’s hectic work schedules and everything else going on in their lives, I wanted a service business.”
Pizzuto’s definitely got one now – and he couldn’t be happier about it.