Five Steps to a Successful Retooling Project
Since opening my first laundromat – O-Town Laundry in Salt Lake City – approximately five years ago, I’ve retooled three more stores, am currently building two stores and have three more waiting in the wings.
Working with me every step of the way – from planning to implementing and installing equipment – has been Brad Moyes of Mendenhall Commercial Laundry Equipment, my distributor for the last 18 years.
Brad and I are the first to admit that retooling is a learning process, and it has taken time to identify the best practices for updating a vended laundry and setting it up to be more profitable. Since taking over my first laundromat, I have learned some valuable lessons. Here are five of my biggest tips for retooling a laundry:
1. Give customers more choices. That’s our motto – “More Choices” and “Nothing Matters More Than Clean.” For instance, we allow customers to pay with credit cards, cash, coins, and through their phones – and we also have an ATM on site. Plus, we try to have six or seven different types of washers, and three to four different types of dryers as well.
Because every customer has different comfort levels with machine types and technologies, and they’ll all have different sizes of loads, this variety keeps people coming back. I believe that any choice an owner eliminates can mean more than a few customers who are unhappy with their experience.
2. Hire a quality architect and experienced engineers. From adding enough air conditioning capacity to cool down a store with large, sun-facing windows and numerous dryers to redesigning space usage to and all things mechanical, experienced engineers and architects are invaluable to a laundry retool.
3. Replace everything that needs it. If it looks old, it probably is. New plumbing, electrical and other infrastructure will cost more up front, but it may cause less problems down the line. It’s always better to deal with those issues during the initial retooling stage, rather than later.
4. Be patient and install the floors last. I learned quickly that nice flooring gets damaged when it’s laid before painting or the installment of laundry equipment. Flooring should always be last on your checklist. In fact, the flooring phase should exemplify every step of the retooling process: be patient, do it right the first time and let the process unfold in the proper order. Don’t try to speed up the project by doing something up front that should be done further down the road.
5. Ask questions! I have developed a close relationship with a number of trusted contractors. Of course, Brad and his team at Mendenhall and Maytag Commercial Laundry have proven to be the most valuable relationships along this journey. The resources, information and experience available helped throughout each retooling process, and their advice was vital to my overall decision-making and to the projects’ eventual success.
As a distributor, Mendenhall continues to help me at every step of the way – from looking at locations to helping me determine whether or not retooling will be profitable, to designing layouts and more. They spot challenges immediately, which is essential.
And, throughout each step of the retooling process, I keep the customer in mind. From convenient hours to a variety of equipment to creating a look and feel that will bring them back, this is, above all, what guides every decision I make.