PlanetLaundry Celebrates 30 Years of Industry Service

The inaugural issue of the Coin Laundry Association’s official publication hit laundry owners’ mailboxes for the very first time in October 1990.

That’s right – exactly 30 years ago.

Back then, the magazine was called The Journal, and its first issue examined the merits of running a mini-mart within a vended laundry – probably an idea few operators would tackle today. That edition also featured a now-quaint guide to cell phones, along with such timeless industry topics as customer service, water and sewer costs, and alternative payment options. Coincidentally, the first card-operated store opened the same year The Journal was launched.

Over the years, the CLA’s official magazine has undergone numerous redesigns, staff changes and, in 2010, a rebranding to its current PlanetLaundry moniker. Through it all, it has been the first – and the best – to tackle such topics as tax issues facing laundry owners, environmental matters, water usage and reclamation, coins vs. alternative payment options, industry consolidation and more.

These days, many of its pages are filled with discussions of how store owners can best cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and thrive as “essential services” within their communities. Also, many of today’s operators are more likely to be experiencing PlanetLaundry’s enhanced digital edition and podcasts on their iPads, as opposed to consuming the magazine the “old fashioned way.”

Change is constant, and the magazine – as well as the association that publishes it – has always embraced this type of forward-thinking evolution. However, with PlanetLaundry’s 30-year milestone upon us, we all thought it was the perfect opportunity to tip our hat to three decades of industry service.

And so did you, as evidenced by just some of the many emails that recently came rolling into the CLA’s offices:

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Brian Brunckhorst
Advantage Laundry
Dublin, Calif.

Thirty years? Wow! Has it really been around that long?

When my wife, May, and I first entered the industry in 2002, The Journal was the one subscription that was a must-have for every laundry owner. We love reading the articles. They are always interesting and timely – and, after 18 years in this business, we still always seem to find a nugget or two that we can use to improve our business.

With the transition toward digital news and information, I see the magazine continuing to move forward with both print and digital versions in the future. I could see a day where the online magazine will be able to expand on the articles appearing in the print version by using video inserts and interviews. I could even see it evolve into an industry news show. But please don’t stop publishing the print version. There is just something special about the feel of a magazine in your hands.

Happy Birthday, PlanetLaundry! Here’s to many more!

Bill Gilbert
SLM Corp.
Belton, S.C.

When I first got into the commercial laundry business in 1982, the average laundromat was less than 2,000 square feet, the majority of washers were toploaders, and the dryers were of the single-pocket variety. Nothing fancy.

At the time, there were industry trade magazines and regional publications here and there. But, much like the stores of the day, they too were nothing fancy – black-and-white photography and the same old “look at my new laundromat” stories.

Then, in 1990, the landscape changed when the CLA launched its new monthly publication. Every issue contains essential information for laundry owners, distributors and manufacturers – whether they realize it or not. We all need to know about the competition, the latest design trends, savings on utility usage, financing options, the latest payment alternatives, social networking suggestions, and even ways to secure and protect your business.

The list is endless, but the point is that there’s always content in PlanetLaundry that pertains to something you’re doing or should be doing to make your business a little bit better.

It’s nice to see so many different laundry owners’ points of view in the magazine. I believe owners can relate to those like themselves, rather than a manufacturer or distributor. I also look forward to Stephen Bean’s columns and his psychological take on the operation of a laundry business. And, of course, I’m sure that Jeff Gardner’s thoughts on wash-dry-fold are in big demand for those catering to that segment of the business.

I grew up reading a newspaper every morning. That little bit of enjoyment ended a while ago, and I’m afraid that one day holding a trade magazine in my hands may become a thing of the past as well. I hope, if that day ever arrives, that I’m retired and watching the tide go up and down – because I just can’t see me squinting at a tiny iPhone screen as Wally explains just how much hydrogen peroxide I need to mix with hot water to remove some particular laundry stain.

Dennis Diaz
Spynr
New York City

When I think about PlanetLaundry, I think about growth.

I was fresh out of college when I first read The Journal. I was starting a marketing position at a company that specializes in financing laundromats. The magazine gave me an ear to the street like no other publication out there.

When you read PlanetLaundry, you not only learn about the laundry industry – you meet the people in it. You learn how owners and operators think. You get first-hand knowledge that you can trust.

We can’t stand in this industry and think that PlanetLaundry hasn’t helped us grow – it’s such a powerful resource. I know it has helped my company, Spynr, and our team.

Happy 30th birthday, PlanetLaundry!

Dan Marrazzo
Newtown Laundry Co.
Morrisville, Pa.

It’s difficult to believe that I have been in the laundry business longer than PlanetLaundry/The Journal has been around. Early in my career, I used the publication to see where the industry was going, and I found the classifieds to be helpful for finding needed products and services. I still rely on the magazine for many of the same things today.

These days, I enjoy the digital edition, which enables me to read PlanetLaundry wherever my phone finds me. With the current restraints of the pandemic, up-to-date information relevant to the laundromat industry has been all but impossible to find elsewhere.

A favorite for me are the industry guest columnists who bring their own perspectives to the reader. Often, someone in Texas has an idea that someone in Pennsylvania can use. And, even if I think some specific ideas may be ridiculous, they remain ideas from which to work.

Personally, I was thrilled when the magazine published an article I submitted a few years ago about giving back to the neighborhood I serve. At the time, it wasn’t a popular subject for print, and I wasn’t sure if anyone would read it or even like it. However, I ended up receiving emails from operators all across the country, showing the penetration and readership of this magazine.

As for the future, we’ve all learned recently that this industry can survive a pandemic and thrive in spite of it. I’d be interested in future stories of millennial operators – perhaps sons and daughters of the “seasoned class” – as we all move forward. And, of course, I’m hopeful that PlanetLaundry will continue on its successful path of serving this industry for many more years to come.

Jeff Gardner
The Laundry Doctor
St. Paul, Minn.

All I can say is that PlanetLaundry is the one magazine I use for everything from training my employees to keeping track of what’s going on in our industry. And, of course, I love Wally. His column is the first thing I always turn to.

Robert Maes
Express Laundry Center
Houston

I joined the CLA as a potential investor, so I first used PlanetLaundry as a research tool. All of the magazine’s article topics were new to me, and I did a lot of learning, which helped increase my confidence when I finally opened my first two laundries.

In addition to researching laundries in my own market, I’ve always enjoyed the magazine’s laundry profiles in other markets – it’s like taking a virtual marketing reconnaissance trip from the comfort and privacy of my own living room. In many instances, I would even run a demographic report on some of the profiled laundromats; in fact, I still do so today.

Thank you to PlanetLaundry. I’ve been learning from you for nearly 12 years!

Bob Eisenberg
BFE Consulting Group
Blue Bell, Pa.

Being a part of this industry for 40 years, I remember quite clearly when The Journal was launched. It was the first publication in our industry that was published in color. That alone made a positive impact – it upgraded the professionalism of the entire industry.

Through the years, the magazine’s content helped to usher in changes and upgrades to stores that have had a positive impact on our industry’s customer base, especially in more underserved neighborhoods whose residents truly appreciate being able to wash their clothes in a positive and pleasant environment.

PlanetLaundry keeps us all abreast of the changes and improvements in our industry. Even having been around for more than 60 years, laundromats are still a viable business, because the operators have adapted to the changes and to the shifts in their customer bases – and they’ve learned much of this by reading PlanetLaundry. These improvements have led to owners offering a better service, which has led to increasing profits. A true win-win.

And PlanetLaundry is essential to the further growth of our industry, publishing the latest on store design, energy savings, business management and more. Furthermore, the magazine also has become a focal point for the incredible work of the LaundryCares Foundation, a charitable group that I was fortunate enough to help establish.

All in all, PlanetLaundry’s editors, contributors and management have kept the magazine relevant for all these years. That’s a testament to the quality of its content and importance of its mission. No doubt, it’s been tough times for all publications, and many have not survived the transition to digital content. Change is the only constant in life, and PlanetLaundry has always embraced the changes of the day, modernized, upgraded, and continued to provide important and relevant content. Congratulations!

Russ Arbuckle
Wholesale Commercial Laundry Equipment SE
Southside, Ala.

I started reading PlanetLaundry 30 years ago, back when it was The Journal. At the time, I had been in the industry only three years, mainly on the service and installation side, but moving toward sales. The information I learned through the articles and columns were instrumental in my personal growth and success in this business. It was invaluable to me, as I learned the business from those who had “been there, done that.”

During my early days in the business, I was learning how to interpret market demographics, as well as how to understand equipment mixes and proper store sizes. The magazine helped me see how it all came together to form a successful laundry. Eventually, I even ended up writing an article for the publication about the rollout of the Spin Cycle chain – and I may be biased, but it’s still one of my favorites.

There’s been an incredible number of changes in our industry, from machine controls to payment systems. And PlanetLaundry has been there to show the industry what’s out there and how to utilize those new tools to be successful.

Happy Birthday, PlanetLaundry!

Ted Ristaino
Yankee Equipment Systems
Barrington, N.H.

PlanetLaundry provides great insights from successful owners on how to improve the performance of their stores. Information on marketing, site selection, lease negotiations, repairs, multi-store benefits and challenges, and many more topics have been examined within PlanetLaundry’s pages. Owning a business presents many hurdles, and it’s beneficial to read how others have attacked the same problem you’re facing.

The content in PlanetLaundry challenges all of us to “up our games” by reinvesting in our businesses. Seeing what others are doing around the country encourages us to ask, “Why can’t I do that?”

Lastly, during this current pandemic, PlanetLaundry has been a tremendous source of guidance to all industry stakeholders regarding government programs and regulations, how to adapt your operation to be as clean and safe as possible, and what types of new markets opened up as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Successful operators are the linchpin of our industry. For distributors and manufacturers to prosper, store owners must prosper first. PlanetLaundry gives those entrepreneurs to tools needed thrive.

PlanetLaundry is the source for all things vended laundry. It plays an important role in spotting industry trends such new technology, store design and governmental issues. It keeps the industry up-to-date on matters like the recent coin shortage or, in the not-so-distant past, the high cost of natural gas. It will continue to be the definitive source for reliable information on trends, opportunities and threats to the laundromat business.

Over the years, I’ve learned that successful people from all walks of life associate with and learn from other successful people. In essence, PlanetLaundry is a forum of successful people for successful people, or those seeking to become successful.

Brian Grell
Eastern Funding
New York City

Years ago, I first heard the following phrase – “Learn from the best and forget the rest.” So true. If you want to excel at anything, study those who already have achieved excellence.

PlanetLaundry consistently fills its pages with content designed to help laundromat owners succeed. In fact, several year ago at Eastern Funding, we made it mandatory that all members of our credit team read the magazine – and we would start each team meeting with a pop quiz with questions inspired from that month’s issue. We made it fun, but more importantly, we wanted our credit team to understand what was taking place within our industry – the latest trends, new products and, most importantly, best practices. The goal was for our credit team to add value to laundry owners by having an understanding of the business.

I look forward to receiving PlanetLaundry, both in print and digitally. I often forward articles to customers and staff. So many times, I’ll hear store owners talk about certain issues they’re facing, and I’ll immediately look for articles in PlanetLaundry that address their concerns.

In my book, columnist Stephen Bean is a rock star. His frequent insightful and intuitive articles always link his psychology and marketing backgrounds with the laundry industry, often providing new ways to look at not only your business, but at your personal life as well.

For me, it’s always about the search for best practices and how we can spread the good word about what works and what doesn’t. Over 33 years in the business, I’ve seen so many poorly run laundromats with old, dilapidated equipment and awful customer service that it was actually the inspiration for me to trademark the phrase “ZombieMats.”

Clearly, I’m a huge fan not only of the magazine, but also the CLA. When I entered this industry in 1987, I was a CPA and didn’t know anything about laundromats. I had never been in one. Much of my personal growth has come from my association with the members and leaders of the CLA, through regular reading the magazine and the CLA Connect Community and, of course, being a CLA Board member. As I said at the outset, “Learn from the best.” That’s what I’ve tried to do.

Todd Fener
Laundry Owners Warehouse
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Providing both sides of the story is the most important thing to me about PlanetLaundry today. In a world of Fox News and MSNBC – and without Walter Cronkite or the McNeil/Lehrer Report – PlanetLaundry still stands for the facts, the truth… and the store owners.

I’m a huge fan of social media laundry groups. I sign up for all of them. Many are world-class, like the one that California owner Ross Dodd runs. However, it was from first reading Ross’s articles in PlanetLaundry that helped me to trust him and his online group. The businesspeople highlighted in PlanetLaundry are the people I look to connect with online and in person.

Online interaction is the best to get a quick response to a question with a simple answer. But PlanetLaundry is great for learning a subject from A to Z – topics with several moving parts such as site analysis, equipment choices, store layout, new technology like card readers with updated chips and contactless payments. Maybe my all-time favorite article was written by Houston store owner Rob Maes, who covered a number of these topics all at once in “My Biggest Mistakes (So Far).”

I’ve also enjoyed seeing utility costs as a percentage of revenue drop from yesteryear’s 35 percent to today, where some stores are below 20 percent. Again, the benchmarks in PlanetLaundry are coming from the owners, not the manufacturers, so I’ve always had extra faith that they were accurate. Those benchmarks put a flame in my belly to do better and to implement the ideas other operators shared in the magazine.

In a way, PlanetLaundry “forces me” to read an entire article on a topic, which is much like eating my vegetables or going to the gym – I may not always want to do it, but I’m always glad I did.

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Of course, PlanetLaundry will continue to keep the industry updated on the latest news and trends. We all would like to take this opportunity to show our appreciation to you. Our staff learns as much from you, the readers, as you hopefully learn from these pages. Thank you for the last 30 years. And thank you to our advertisers, without whom we could not continue to bring the industry the quality publication that it truly deserves. As the laundromat industry continues to change and grow, we promise to keep you informed, entertained and, most importantly, profitable.

So, as Todd noted above, always eat your vegetables and read your PlanetLaundry every month – and both you and your laundromat business will grow big and strong!

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