PlanetLaundry and Supplements Northeast Supplement Spring 2014 : Page 1

Supplement to the PlanetLaundry Magazine B USINESS PROFILE S TEV EN G OU L D Spring 2014 | planetlaundry.com | coinlaundry.org ‘Listen to Your Customers’ Third-Generation Entrepreneur Finds Profitable Niche in New Jersey Coin Laundry Market Andy Merendino is the owner of Suds Yer Duds coin laundry in Carneys Point, N.J., which was voted the Best Laundry in the County four years running. Andy attributes this consistent recognition to his solid work ethic and discipline. His dad, now 80 and retired, graduated from the “school of hard knocks” and instilled his values in his son at a young age. His grandfather came to the U.S. from Italy and always told him that, to be successful, one must have the discipline to do what needs to be done – especially when you don’t really feel like working. Like many self-service laundry owners, Andy has used that blue-collar work ethic to become successful in a number of small businesses. He grew up in the liquor store business. “My sister and I were the third generation to operate that business,” he said. “It was in the family for 50 years. When the market was hot back in 2006, we both decided it was a good time to sell and pursue our individual interests. A few years earlier, I had started a snack food route and also began to get involved in selling real estate. That led to starting an apartment rental business in 2003, and I still maintain 10 units.” However, not every seemingly good idea works. In 2005, Andy decided to buy a nearby pizza parlor. “I totally failed at that and sold the pizza shop in 2008,” he admitted. But Andy still had that entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to run his own business. That's when he discovered coin laundries. “After being involved in other businesses over the years and being trapped in the liquor store at nights and during holidays and weekends, a laundromat seemed like a good fit for the lifestyle I wanted,” he explained. ADVERTISERS AC Power Company Inc | Inside Front Cover Aristo Craft | 15 Coin Laundry Insurance | 13 Direct Machinery | 05 Gold Coin Laundry Equipment | Back Cover HK Laundry Equipment | 09 Metropolitan Laundry Machinery Company, Inc | 11 QualClean Equipment LLC | 10 Statewide Machinery | 07 Yankee Equipment Systems, Inc | 03 continued on page 3

BUSINESS PROFILE

Steven Gould


‘Listen to Your Customers’
Third-Generation Entrepreneur Finds Profitable Niche in New Jersey Coin Laundry Market

Andy Merendino is the owner of Suds Yer Duds coin laundry in Carneys Point, N.J., which was voted the Best Laundry in the County four years running. Andy attributes this consistent recognition to his solid work ethic and discipline.

His dad, now 80 and retired, graduated from the “school of hard knocks” and instilled his values in his son at a young age. His grandfather came to the U.S. from Italy and always told him that, to be successful, one must have the discipline to do what needs to be done – especially when you don’t really feel like working.

Like many self-service laundry owners, Andy has used that blue-collar work ethic to become successful in a number of small businesses.

He grew up in the liquor store business.

“My sister and I were the third generation to operate that business,” he said. “It was in the family for 50 years. When the market was hot back in 2006, we both decided it was a good time to sell and pursue our individual interests. A few years earlier, I had started a snack food route and also began to get involved in selling real estate. That led to starting an apartment rental business in 2003, and I still maintain 10 units.”

However, not every seemingly good idea works. In 2005, Andy decided to buy a nearby pizza parlor.

“I totally failed at that and sold the pizza shop in 2008,” he admitted.

But Andy still had that entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to run his own business. That's when he discovered coin laundries.

“After being involved in other businesses over the years and being trapped in the liquor store at nights and during holidays and weekends, a laundromat seemed like a good fit for the lifestyle I wanted,” he explained.

A laundry business offered freedom and flexibility that just wasn’t there with his other business ventures. In Andy’s mind, he might make “a little less money and I still put in the hours, but now I can manage my life schedule in a way that I never could before.”

In 2006, after the sale of the liquor store, Andy purchased a 2,800-square-foot building that had once been a pharmacy. His goal was to turn it into a modern coin laundry. He thought the timing was right, since two other laundromats in the area had recently closed for reasons other than lack of business. The location was perfect and has worked since Day One.

“I spent a little over $700,000 in all – $170,000 of that was for the property,” he said. “I prefer to own rather than lease.”

It took about six months of work and, in March 2007, Suds Yer Duds opened its doors for business.

Andy said the build out and grand opening went smoothly. All regulations had been followed and all approvals from inspectors and the local township had gone through without a hitch.

Then, about two months after opening, Andy got a surprise from the local sewer authority – although surprise might not be the right word.

“I got a $20,000 bill for a new connection fee,” he said. “I disputed it, based on the fact that I used the existing sewer connection and they were now charging me laundromat sewer rates for usage. But what could I do? I had to pay it or get closed down.”

This is where lawyers make their money.

“My attorney suggested we spend a little money and do some research into state policy regarding my situation,” Andy said. “He discovered case law that resulted in the return of my connection fee. Three months later, I got back my $20,000, with interest. That is certainly something for other owners to make note of for future reference.”

Suds Yer Duds is located near a major travel corridor, which brings Andy a great deal of traffic past his laundromat. What’s more, the store also receives attention from customers visiting nearby businesses; Suds Yer Duds is close to a sandwich shop, a real estate office, an insurance broker, a convenience store and a law office. Most of the store’s customers are renters whose apartment laundry rooms simply can’t compete with Suds Yer Duds. There also are many homeowners in the area who patronize the store a few times a year to wash their larger items, such as comforters, camping equipment and so on.

According to Andy, his store has four competitors nearby.

“When I first opened the store I only had competition from two other stores,” he said. “With five of us here now, the market is near the saturation point.”

To differentiate himself from the competition, Andy offers personal service and a clean, bright store.

“My customers know me,” he said. “I engage them in conversation, and I personally thank them for coming to my store. I help them load their cars and hand out candy to the kids. I post my cell phone number and insist they call me if they have any problems. I even deliver double refunds to their homes if no one was there to help them. And I’ll randomly give regular customers a free wash or dry.”

Andy places various print ads in the local newspaper, as well as on placemats in the local diners. He has a Facebook page and also sponsors local teams and events. He plans to build a website in the near future and get involved in search engine optimization.

“I learned about that at our last Delaware Valley Coin Laundry Association meeting in the fall, and I’m really anxious to get started.”

Suds Yer Duds is open year-round, from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. The store employs three part-time attendants who work every night from 7 p.m. until close.

Currently, the store does not offer wash-dry- fold services or seek out commercial accounts. “I just don’t see it providing enough income to justify a fully attended store,” Andy explained. “But I always keep an eye on that.”

In addition to stepping up his online marketing game, Andy has several plans for Suds Yer Duds in 2014 – including taking down a wall and adding an extra 165 square feet to the store’s customer area. This project will add more seating at a convenient counter overlooking a new children’s play area.

Also, Andy is planning on new wall coverings, lighted exterior signage and more instructional signs inside. Afterward these enhancements, he expects to raise his vend prices. Furthermore, he even hinted that he may be in the market for another laundromat.

What advice does he have for those considering the coin laundry business?

“Look for an existing store to turn around, and try to buy the property rather than lease,” he suggested. “Learn how to be your own repairman and, most importantly, listen to your customers.”

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

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/BUSINESS+PROFILE/1639528/198190/article.html.

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