PlanetLaundry and Supplements West Supplement to Aug. 2012 : Page 1

Fall 2012 | | West BU SI N E S S P R O FI L E STEVEN GOULD From Silicon Valley to Self-Service Laundry ADVERTISERS CLA Insurance | 08 Continental Girbau West | 05 Mountain Electronics | 07 Peterson Equipment | 09 Wascomat-Crossover | 03 Former Software Developer Makes His Mark with California Laundromats For Terry Quinn, venturing into the coin laundry business was a major turnaround from his previous life. Quinn spent more than 19 years in the software development industry in Silicon Valley. continued on page 6


Steven Gould

From Silicon Valley to Self-Service Laundry

Former Software Developer Makes His Mark with California Laundromats

For Terry Quinn, venturing into the coin laundry business was a major turnaround from his previous life. Quinn spent more than 19 years in the software development industry in Silicon Valley.

He was there pretty much from the beginning, having been the 196th person to join Sun Microsystems. And although he enjoyed watching the company grow, he also was there when it started to shrink – and, in 2002, he decided it might be time for a change.

During that time, a friend suggested that a self-service laundry might be a good investment.

Quinn hadn’t operated his own business before; therefore, while he thought the idea sounded good, he wanted to do a little research. His first stop was the Coin Laundry Association, and he did all of the things that the CLA recommends one do before venturing out into the coin laundry business.

He went online and purchased a few videos on owning and operating a coin laundry. He visited all of the stores in his area and watched how they operated – learning what he felt were good (and not so good) ideas.

Then, after nearly three years of research and study, he decided to take the plunge. In 2006, Quinn bought his first store and has never looked back or regretted anything about his decision.

He now operates two laundries in California – a 3,000-square-foot store in Folsom and a 2,400-squarefoot operation in Sacramento.

After doing his due diligence, Quinn decided the coin laundry business was a solid investment.

“I liked the idea of picking my own hours,” he explained. “I also thought that it had good income potential, so I started to look for a store to buy.”

In May 2006, Quinn purchased what would be his first store, Launderland of Folsom in Folsom, Calif. (And, yes, it’s very close to the prison made famous by the Johnny Cash classic, “Folsom Prison Blues.”)

This self-service laundry features a strong pick-up/delivery and drop-off business. And, in fact, the success of the Folsom store enabled Quinn to purchase his second store in Sacramento in November 2006. The laundries required an initial investment of approximately $500,000 each.

“The purchase of my first store took a few months,” Quinn said. “There just wasn’t anything for sale, and then all of the sudden this store became available. I was in the right place at the right time. After that, the Sacramento store became available – it was a brand new store, about 18 months old, and I thought that it offered great potential.”

The two stores – both of which are leased – are about a 30-minute drive from each other, so it’s fairly easy for Quinn to keep an eye on both operations.

Although the laundries are not far about, the demographics are quite different for each store. The Folsom store clientele is mostly white and Hispanic and within the middle- to upper-income range, while the Sacramento store caters to mainly Hispanic and some Asian customers, who are more likely in the lower- to middle-income bracket. However, both locations boast a good mix of apartment complexes and single-family homes.

“The biggest problem I have right now is that, in the Folsom area over the last 15 years, they have built some new apartment complexes,” Quinn explained. “These newer complexes have laundry facilities in each unit, so that doesn’t really help me.”

In the Sacramento area, the apartment complexes have become Quinn’s top targets.

“It’s not just the other laundromats that I compete with, but the apartment complex community laundry room,” he said. “But they have single-load machines. I offer much larger machines so that the customers can get their laundry done faster and cheaper.”

To help drive the apartment dwellers to his Sacramento store, Quinn runs regular direct-mail campaigns, as well as in-store raffles for such prizes as a widescreen television. He also offers a limited free dry program, which is based on the type of washers a customer uses.

In addition, both businesses are in very different types of areas.

“At the Folsom location, I’m surrounded by just about anything and everything,” Quinn noted. “There is auto repair, fast food, high-end restaurants, jewelry stores, a Lowe’s, a Home Depot, a few banks – really just about everything. At the Sacramento store, I’m in a shopping center located between a large Goodwill resale store and an equally big Mexican supermarket; and the laundry is in a strip mall with smaller businesses like a liquor store and a pizza parlor.”

According to Quinn, there is a lot of foot traffic at the Sacramento laundry, as the two larger stores flanking the strip mall bring in a lot of potential customers. Quinn said he can tell when the Goodwill store is having a sale just by looking at the parking lot.

In Sacramento, there are four other coin laundries within about two miles of Quinn’s store. To offset the competition, he plans to run even more advertising and promotions at that store.

In addition, Quinn has tried to separate himself from the other laundries in the market by installing a card system, which again allows him to more easily run promotions and target customers. For example, the card system automatically enters customers in Quinn’s TV raffle promotion every time they use a washer. It’s also much simpler to run his free dry promotion with the card system, as it tracks which washers are being used; it would be much more difficult if an attendant had to track that information, Quinn pointed out.

Quinn offers wash-dry-fold services, as well as drop off and pickup/delivery services, at both stores. The drop-off service is $1.10 per pound, with a minimum of $10, and the pickup/delivery service is $1.40 per pound, with a minimum of $25.

This service has been well received, and Quinn has plans to launch a direct-mail campaign to further promote and grow the segment of his business. He said that he’ll take advantage of a new postal service program that allows direct mailers to target their audience by carrier route; Quinn will be able to pick the routes he wants to target and, of course, the cost will be much lower.

Both of Quinn’s laundries have snack and soda vending machines, as well as soap vending. The Folsom store is open from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, while the Sacramento laundromat’s hours are from7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The Folsom store employs a full-time attendant to handle the pickup/delivery service, as well as two part-timers to help with the wash-dry-fold business. There are also two employees who clean and close up in the evenings. In Sacramento, that store features one full-time attendant and a part-time employee.

For the foreseeable future, Quinn has no plans to grow beyond his current two stores.

“I want to spend my time growing and promoting what I have,” he said. “I think there is a lot more capacity here, so that is where I want to spend my time and my dollars.”

Steven Gould is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area.

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