PlanetLaundry and Supplements Northeast Supplement Fall 2013 : Page 1

Supplement to the PlanetLaundry Magazine B USINESS PROFILE S TEV EN G OU L D Fall 2013 | planetlaundry.com | coinlaundry.org The Accidental Laundry Owner Despite Having Six Stores, This Pennsylvania Operator Never Set Out to Own Laundromats Chris and Tracy Mirisciotta are the owners of multiple Canon Coin Laundry operations in the Canonsburg, Pa., area. And, although it has been a successful and growing business for more than a decade, the self-service laundry industry was not something Chris had dreamed of doing. “Actually, the coin laundry business kind of found me,” Mirisciotta said. “I wasn’t pursuing anything, and there was a coin laundry near me that closed. The landlord had asked them to remodel, and they decided to close the laundromat instead. They took everything with them, and the building sat empty for about 2 years. I knew nothing about the coin laundry business, but every time I saw the landlord he kept urging me to open a laundry.” This went on for some time, until Mirisciotta decided to take a look at the business. “I visited a couple of laundromats to look around and decided that I could do better.” Not that Mirisciotta lacked experience dealing with “suds” and the public in a retail environment. “I’ve been in the beverage business pretty much all my life,” he explained. “The family had a beer distributorship, and I had been working there since high school. We eventually bought a couple of our customers and became more of a retail operation. I’m still involved with the beer stores to this day.” Along with those operations, Canon Coin Laundry has grown to a six-store chain. And while it’s all technically “retail,” there are obviously some major differences between Mirisciotta’s two businesses. The coin laundry definitely has its advantages. “The flexible hours and the lower number of employees,” Mirisciotta pointed out. “I don’t think I could have bought into another business similar to how I run the beer stores. The hours would have been too much. ADVERTISERS AC Power | Back Cover Alco Washer | 07 Coin Laundry Insurance | 11 Daniels Equipment Company, Inc | 05 Empire Laundry Machinery | 08 Gold Coin Laundry Equipment | Inside Front Cover Metropolitan Laundry Machinery Company, Inc | 09 Northeast Laundry Equipment LLC | 10 Peterson Equipment Company | 15 Professional Laundry Systems | 04 Yankee Equipment Systems, Inc | 11 continued on page 3

BUSINESS PROFILE

Steven Gould


The Accidental Laundry Owner

Despite Having Six Stores, This Pennsylvania Operator Never Set Out to Own Laundromats

Chris and Tracy Mirisciotta are the owners of multiple Canon Coin Laundry operations in the Canonsburg, Pa., area.

And, although it has been a successful and growing business for more than a decade, the self-service laundry industry was not something Chris had dreamed of doing.

“Actually, the coin laundry business kind of found me,” Mirisciotta said. “I wasn’t pursuing anything, and there was a coin laundry near me that closed. The landlord had asked them to remodel, and they decided to close the laundromat instead. They took everything with them, and the building sat empty for about 2 years. I knew nothing about the coin laundry business, but every time I saw the landlord he kept urging me to open a laundry.”

This went on for some time, until Mirisciotta decided to take a look at the business.

“I visited a couple of laundromats to look around and decided that I could do better.”

Not that Mirisciotta lacked experience dealing with “suds” and the public in a retail environment.

“I’ve been in the beverage business pretty much all my life,” he explained. “The family had a beer distributorship, and I had been working there since high school. We eventually bought a couple of our customers and became more of a retail operation. I’m still involved with the beer stores to this day.”

Along with those operations, Canon Coin Laundry has grown to a six-store chain. And while it’s all technically “retail,” there are obviously some major differences between Mirisciotta’s two businesses.

The coin laundry definitely has its advantages.

“The flexible hours and the lower number of employees,” Mirisciotta pointed out. “I don’t think I could have bought into another business similar to how I run the beer stores. The hours would have been too much.

“I never thought of a coin laundry as an absentee business, because you can always walk in to a laundromat and tell if the owner is truly an absentee. But it is a real advantage being able to set your own hours.”

The first Canon Coin Laundry opened in 1999. It was just across the street from one of Mirisciotta’s package beverage stores. Since it had been gutted and vacant for two years, he would have to conduct a fairly complete build out. So, he met with a few local distributors until he found the right one.

“I had one salesman come to my office for a meeting,” Mirisciotta recalled. “I told him I didn’t know much about the laundry business, but that I did know construction. I said, ‘Tell me what needs to be done, and I’ll take care of it.’

“I don’t know if he didn’t like that idea or what, but he closed up his book and said he thought I should look into something else; he didn’t think this business was for me. Then he just got up and walked out of the office. I couldn’t believe it. He just walked away. That was my first experience with anyone in the laundry business.”

Mirisciotta found another distributor, and it was a completely different story. Once the financing was secured, it took him about three months to open that first store.

And, since then, time has proven that Chris knows what he is talking about – and that first salesman who walked out on him knows it, too. According to Mirisciotta, around the time he was getting ready to open his fourth laundry, that original distributor tried again to solicit his business.

Having six stores, Mirisciotta is involved as both a building owner and a lessee.

“I own two, and I lease four,” he explained. “I know some people think that’s an evil subject. They don’t want to build the infrastructure in someone else’s building, but I figure if you’re going to make a profit, why not- If you know your landlord and you build your lease properly, I don’t think that there is anything to worry about when it comes to leasing a store. One of my leased stores is in an area of explosive growth. It probably would have cost me upwards of $2 million if I had bought the property.”

Perhaps surprisingly, when considering a new store, demographics aren’t one of Mirisciotta’s priorities.

“With laundromats today, your clientele is all over the place,” he explained. “If I was looking at a store right now, I wouldn’t even bother with demographics. My number-two store in the chain is in a rural area of the county, and if you looked at the demographics, you would never put a laundromat there. When I look at a store now, I look more at the geographical location rather than the demographics. I think people are just spending too much time on demographics.”

He added that he feels nowadays a good store can be profitable with just about any demographics.

Canon Coin Laundries run promotions when a new store opens, and all of the facilities are advertised the local Yellow Pages. Mirisciotta’s stores are located on major arteries and are easy to spot. There are hotels in the area, and he thinks that most potential customers just look up information on their computers and look for something close by and easily accessible.

“I do believe in branding,” he added. “If you look at my signs, you’ll see ‘Canon,’ but in big block letters you’ll see ‘Coin Laundry.’ That’s probably my most effective advertising.”

Mirisciotta’s laundry locations are evenly split between stand-alone buildings and strip malls. They are all surrounded by other thriving destination businesses, such as restaurants, hardware stores and so on. However, there is one type of business Chris would prefer his laundries avoid being near.

“I don’t really like to be near grocery stores,” he said. “Grocery stores are fine, if they have enough parking. Otherwise, a grocery store will eat up every available parking space around.”

Although there is competition in the marketplace, Mirisciotta is more concerned with what he does than with what they do. He keeps the laundromats clean and well lit, with all of the machines functioning properly. He also updates his stores to keep them modern and fresh looking.

What’s more, a big priority for Mirisciotta is his refund policy. If there is a problem, he’s quick to simply refund the customer his or her money. It’s something that he feels strongly about. It’s not worth losing a customer over two dollars, he reasons. That is not only something the customer will remember, but she will tell all of the people she knows.

“If a customer has a problem, there is no argument – he gets a refund,” Mirisciotta said. “There is no credit or anything like that. A customer puts in cash, and if the machine doesn’t work, he gets a cash refund. If somebody loses $1.75 and I give them two singles, that builds trust. They know that they’re not going to lose money in my store.”

Mirisciotta offers a wash-dry-fold service at just one of his stores – and that business is actually contracted out to the woman who does the work. She does the advertising and performs the service herself, while Mirisciotta simply rents her the space and lets her use his machines.

Canon Coin Laundries are unattended and open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

“I contract out the cleaning to a husband-and-wife team that has been with me since the beginning,” Mirisciotta said. “I trust them completely.”

While he would consider another store, Mirisciotta feels he is about at his limit when it comes to the hours. Along with the beer stores, he is at a pivotal point. His wife, Tracy, does all of the bookkeeping and, while he is looking at a seventh store, he feels that would put added stress on everyone’s time.

“I do all of the repairs, and I’m going to have to sit down and really figure some things out,” he said. “I may have to start outsourcing some of the tasks I currently handle.”

Whatever direction Mirisciotta eventually decides to go, you know it will be well thought out.

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

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/BUSINESS+PROFILE/1485896/172472/article.html.

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