September 29, 2016
Written by Planet Laundry Staff, CLA Member
The Hole in the Doughnut
It comes as no surprise that people are protective of their traditions. After all, tradition is familiar and safe. Tradition offers the comforts of routine, habit and ritual. A step away from tradition is a step toward the unknown – and the unknown can be a scary place.
However, we all need to be aware of the subtle ways tradition traps us in the known world – and prevents us from disrupting the status quo and perhaps birthing new ideas. As a business owner, allowing yourself to be bogged down by the traditional thinking and norms of your industry can eventually close you off from opportunities that may be essential the future evolution of your laundry operation.
For most, the “traditional laundromat market” is a densely populated urban location – with low-income, blue-collar renters and large households run amok with small children.
This month, we examine rather atypical laundry businesses that are making it work in non-traditional marketplaces:
Owner: John Berenato
Location: Woodstown Wash Tub - Woddstown, N.J.
Store Size: 1,100 square feet
Operation: Fully attended; open 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daliy
Addition Services: Wash-dry-fold
What Makes This Business Non-Traditional?
We are located in a rural market. However, it's also higher end market - our median income is nearly $92,000 per year.
This market is like the hole in the doughnut. The borough of Woodstown is the hole, and all around me is an area called Pilesgrove Township, which is a very rural farming community. There are a lot of wealthy farmers here who probably live in Woodstown because it's the community center, but they own property in Pilesgrove. It's very affluent area.
I own reale state, which is 9,000-square-foot strip center, and this particular storefront was vacant for eight month after a tenant moved out. However, there are apartments directly behind the building, and a new 100-unit moderate-income housing project just opened about a quarter-mile away - so I chose to open a self-service laundry in the space.
Who Are The Customers?
My customers are diverse. We're getting everybody. We're getting homeowners from the nearby golf course community, who come in to wash their comforters and larger items that thei home equipment can't handle. And, seeing as renters now represent about 27 percent of this market, we're getting customers with no access to in-unit equipment who come in on a weekly basis.
Also, there is a nuclear power plant about 17 miles away. This plant shuts down for 90 days twice a year for scheduled maintenance, and during these shutdowns, they bring in 2,500 workers. These people rent houses and live in trailers and on campgrounds within my marketplace. So I get a lot of those seasonal customers.
Furthermore, my drop-off service currently accounts for about 20 percent of my overall business.
Advantages of This Market:
We have public sewer and water, which gives us the ability to handle the water discharge, while the communites surrounding us have none of these services. They have either wells or septic systems. Again, we're the hole in the doughnut.
Challenges of This Market:
Our biggest challenge is letting people know we're here. I'm located on a highly traveled highway, with almost 21,000 cars going past the front of my store per day. However, even though we've been open for more than three years, people still say, "i didn't know you were here!"
Keys to Success:
Being Friendly. Offer good value. And provide a secure and safe environment. Just following good business practices, as you would with a traditional laundromat.
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