PlanetLaundry and Supplements Northeast Spring 2012 : Page 1

Northeast Spring 2012 | planetlaundry.com | coinlaundry.org B U S I N E S S P R OFI L E STEVEN GOULD Keeping It in the Family After a Successful Foray in Commercial Laundering, Massachusetts Couple Returns to the Laundromat Business For Brian Bowser, owning and operating a laundromat has always been a family activity. After graduating from college, Bowser had a short stint in the manufacturing industry and also spent some time in retail. But what he really wanted was the chance to run his own show. So, he began investigating various options. Along with laundromats and drycleaners, he also looked into the carpet cleaning business; however, cleaning carpets just didn’t create that spark he was looking for. But, as he conducted further research, an opportunity presented itself. “My dad retired young from the Post Office as a supervisor, and he was looking for something to do,” Bowser explained. “We had a friend in the drycleaning business who recommended a location that he felt would be good for a laundromat, which coincidentally was right next door to the drycleaner.” So, in 1973, Bowser and his father opened their first coin laundry. And it was a year later that Brian met his future wife, Deborah, who was a store employee at the time. Running a laundromat has been a family activity ever since. That first laundry was a successful operation for 10 continued on page 10 ADVERTISERS Alco Washer Center | 11 Caldwell & Gregory | 2 Coin Laundry Insurance | 15 CILS, Inc. | 3 Cost-Less Parts | 16 Daniels Equipment Company, Inc. | 20 Empire Laundry | 12 Gold Coin Laundry Equipment | 8, 9 Laundry Equipment Services, Inc. | 14 Metropolitan Laundry Machinery Company, Inc. | 13 Northeast Laundry Equipment LLC | 10 PlanetLaundry.com | 17 Qual Clean Equipment, LLC. | 17 Setomatic Systems | 5 Yankee Equipment Systems, Inc. | 15 Professional Laundry Systems, Inc. | 7

BUSINESS PROFILE

Steven Gould


Keeping It in the Family

After a Successful Foray in Commercial Laundering, Massachusetts Couple Returns to the Laundromat Business

For Brian Bowser, owning and operating a laundromat has always been a family activity. After graduating from college, Bowser had a short stint in the manufacturing industry and also spent some time in retail. But what he really wanted was the chance to run his own show.

So, he began investigating various options. Along with laundromats and drycleaners, he also looked into the carpet cleaning business; however, cleaning carpets just didn’t create that spark he was looking for.

But, as he conducted further research, an opportunity presented itself.

“My dad retired young from the Post Office as a supervisor, and he was looking for something to do,” Bowser explained. “We had a friend in the drycleaning business who recommended a location that he felt would be good for a laundromat, which coincidentally was right next door to the drycleaner.”

So, in 1973, Bowser and his father opened their first coin laundry. And it was a year later that Brian met his future wife, Deborah, who was a store employee at the time.

Running a laundromat has been a family activity ever since. That first laundry was a successful operation for 10 years, until the Bowsers sold it to try their hand at the commercial laundry business. And, until 1988, Brian and Deborah ran a successful commercial business, which boasted some large corporate clients, such as Texas Instruments, along with a number of local nursing homes.

However, a spike in the local real estate market at the time made the land worth more than the actual business. As a result, the couple sold the real estate and closed up shop on their commercial laundry operation. But they still wanted to remain in the laundry business. They had enjoyed their time in the self-service laundry business and meeting all of their customers; plus, they appreciated the fact that it’s a cash business, where they don’t have to do billing and collections. So, they began looking for a location to start a new coin laundry.

And they found the ideal spot in their current location in Plainville, Mass. There was a new shopping center being built there, and they could get in on the ground floor and build their new laundry exactly to their liking.

After just 90 days and with an investment of $195,000, the Bowers’ Attleboro Crossing Laundromat was open for business. Brian explained that it is an ideal spot because the area features many older, multi-family dwellings that simply don’t have space for washers and dryers.

“We get about 60 percent or so of our business from these folks,” Bowser estimated. “Close by, there is a neighborhood of fancier, single-family homes. Those people bring us their leather and suede clothes for drop-off drycleaning and also launder items that may be too large for their machines at home.”

The shopping center includes a number of businesses that bring attention – and customer traffic – to the 2,500-square-foot Attleboro Crossing store. There is a Family Dollar and a Big Lots, as well as a grocery store and a hair salon. And what kind of strip mall would it be without the pizza parlor, a Chinese restaurant and a doughnut shop? All of this makes for a busy shopping hub, which works out well for the Bowsers and their laundry business.

In addition to taking advantage of the busy foot traffic throughout the center, the Bowsers actively promote their business through the extensive use of in-house coupons and special offers printed on the backs of register receipts at the mall’s grocery store. They also place ads with coupons in local newspapers and community publications. In fact, the store’s regular customers almost always have some sort of coupon to use, according to Bowser.

To further boost business, Attleboro Crossing Laundromat offers a wash-dry-fold service for 90 cents per pound, in addition to the store’s drop-off drycleaning business, which is farmed out at market price. The couple promotes this segment of the business through additional advertising and, of course, more coupons.

Perhaps surprisingly, given their past life as commercial launderers, the Bowsers haven’t sought out any commercial accounts to supplement their store’s bottom line.

“I wouldn’t turn it down if it came knocking, but I’d really have to look at it closely,” Brian said. “We did do some commercial work early on at this store, but it was just too big. My regular customers sometimes had to wait for a machine while the commercial laundry was being done, and that was simply unacceptable.”

The Bowsers currently have four competitors in what they consider to be their marketplace. And they’ve tried to differentiate their laundry business in a number of ways.

“We not only have attendants on duty from when we open at 7 a.m. until we close at 10 p.m., but Deborah and I are here every morning,” Bowser noted. “We probably know a good 70 percent of our customers on a first-name basis. They know where to find us if they have issues or suggestions. And, if I’m not here and a problem arises, the attendant will phone me, and I’m only 15 minutes away. Our customers know and appreciate that.”

Brian also handles all of his store’s maintenance, so every machine is always clean and in perfect running order, he said.

“Occasionally, I may have to wait a day or two for a part, but that would be the worst of it,” he said.

In addition, the Bowsers have created a comfortable waiting area for their customers. The store is entirely carpeted, and Brian and Deborah get their furniture from a commercial supplier that rotates it out every two or three years so that it is always in like-new condition; this includes padded chairs, coffee tables and a 37-inch high-definition television.

Plus, Attleboro Crossing Laundromat features plenty of magazines to read, as well as games and other activities for the kids. Maybe best of all, the store provides free coffee. Of course, there also are the obligatory soda, snack and laundry detergent vending machines; while, as a further convenience, the Bowsers sell large containers of detergent, fabric softener and bleach at the service counter.

All in all, it’s clear that Brian and Deborah Bowser enjoy being back in the self-service laundry business.

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/BUSINESS+PROFILE/980365/101437/article.html.

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