PlanetLaundry and Supplements Midwest 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 ‘They Loved Us from the Beginning’ Illinois Operators Quickly Turn Around Long-Time Laundromat Bernie Wozniak and his partner, John Marecki, are relative newcomers to the retail side of the laundry business, having opened their store just a few years ago. But they're no strangers to the textile industry – or to customer service. John was a route sales representative and Bernie has been involved in the textile leasing business and industrial laundry for years. Bernie had not been a business owner prior to purchasing Clean N Fresh Laundry in Plainfield, Ill., but he was extremely familiar with the industry on a much larger scale. continued on page 3 “I thought this would be a natural transition for me,” Bernie said. “I was able to put together a business plan that worked for me over the last 25 years. I thought this was a great industry to become involved with. If run correctly, you can start to turn a profit in a month instead of a few years. The economy was hitting rough times, and this business can be somewhat recession-proof.” Bernie saw other advantages as well. The flexibility to control his schedule and reduce daily stress levels was enticing. “The opportunity to get my sons involved in running a business was also a big plus,” he added. ADVERTISERS Coin Laundry Association | 11 Coin Laundry Insurance | 07 Coin-O-Matic | Back Cover E.J. Thomas & Co. | 11 Great Lakes Laundry | 05 Wascomat | 02

BUSINESS PROFILE

Steven Gould


‘They Loved Us from the Beginning’
Illinois Operators Quickly Turn Around Long-Time Laundromat

Bernie Wozniak and his partner, John Marecki, are relative newcomers to the retail side of the laundry business, having opened their store just a few years ago.

But they're no strangers to the textile industry – or to customer service.

John was a route sales representative and Bernie has been involved in the textile leasing business and industrial laundry for years. Bernie had not been a business owner prior to purchasing Clean N Fresh Laundry in Plainfield, Ill., but he was extremely familiar with the industry on a much larger scale.

“I thought this would be a natural transition for me,” Bernie said. “I was able to put together a business plan that worked for me over the last 25 years. I thought this was a great industry to become involved with. If run correctly, you can start to turn a profit in a month instead of a few years. The economy was hitting rough times, and this business can be somewhat recession-proof.”

Bernie saw other advantages as well. The flexibility to control his schedule and reduce daily stress levels was enticing.

“The opportunity to get my sons involved in running a business was also a big plus,” he added.

So, he set out to look for a store to purchase and found one in a perfect location.

The demographics for the 3,600-square-foot Clean N Fresh Laundry are perfect for Bernie's current and future plans.

“It’s a diversified area with a wide range of income levels, which offers many coin laundry customers and a strong drop-off business,” he explained. “It’s also centrally located, which will help to grow the textile leasing business.”

With a strong business plan and a great location, Bernie invested a little less than $200,000 and purchased the store. They opened for business in June 2011 and have never looked back.

“We had a solid game plan going in, which allowed no hiccups, so transforming the laundromat only took three weeks,” Bernie said. “However, we are continuing to make additional improvements.”

The renovation went as planned, and there were no snags. Bernie said the most interesting aspect of taking over was how quickly the customers responded.

“They loved us from the beginning, by just doing the right things,” he said. “Cleaning out the dryers and replacing every belt finally allowed the flames to burn blue, but customers thought we turned up the heat. They also commented on finally having hot water, after replacing the 20-year-old boiler the first week we were there.”

Since the store opened under Bernie’s management, there have had no real business issues or surprises.

“We only had two issues, some related to previous ownership and then my health,” he said. “Two months after purchasing the business, I became ill. After several surgeries and procedures over the last few years, it’s still an uphill battle. My partner and sons, Jordan and Joshua, stepped up to the plate and did an amazing job under my guidance.”

Clean N Fresh Laundry is located in a bustling area with grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, doctors’ offices and hair salons, which attract a lot of foot traffic.

“What I love about our location is that we have an extremely diversified clientele: 60 percent families, 15 percent couples, 15 percent singles and 10 percent seniors,” Bernie explained. “Income levels from $15,000 to more than $100,000 – with 35 percent Hispanic, 35 percent white, 25 percent African-American and 5 percent Asian.”

The owners get their store’s name out in a number of ways. They have a website, utilize search engine optimization and advertising, and place door hangers throughout the area. They offer senior citizen discounts and even have a “Seniors Day.” They leverage Yelp, are listed on Angie’s List and also run a customer loyalty program.

Although Bernie feels he has a wonderful location, he’s not alone in the area. “We have five competitors within a five-mile radius,” he noted. Clean N Fresh Laundry differentiates itself by providing exceptional customer service. “There is always an attendant on duty, the store is kept very clean, the equipment is well maintained and in top condition,” he said. “We also have a high-quality drop-off-and delivery service. Our goal is to change the public’s perception of laundromats.”

Clean N Fresh Laundry offers wash-dry-steam-fold services for $1.30 per pound with a $15 minimum. “We really turned it around when we started steaming products,” Bernie said. “We use detergent specifically formulated for us that fits our customers’ needs. Not only is it a convenience, but we do a much better job than if they did it themselves. By steaming, customers can wear product right off the hanger wrinkle free.”

The laundry also actively seeks out commercial accounts. The price varies on volume and product being laundered. “We service doctors’ offices, restaurants, nursing homes, churches, industrial businesses and homeless shelters,” said Bernie, adding that they’re also working to increase their linen rental business.

Clean N Fresh Laundry is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. The owners employ four attendants, with two being full-time. There is always an attendant on duty. The store offers free coffee and internet access.

If you’re thirsty, they have a vended soda, water and Gatorade available. If you’re hungry, they also have a candy and snack vendor. There are three arcade games, including a claw/crane machine, as well as an ATM for customer convenience.

Bernie enjoys being a laundry owner and has plans for more stores in the future.

“Our goal from the beginning has been to open at least three more laundries, but becoming ill put that goal behind schedule,” he said. “We will start researching our next location late in 2014. This is not a quick process, which is the biggest mistake most potential new business owners forget. Our new location planning involves demographics, clientele, lease or building costs, not only current volume, but potential capacity. We look at drop off capacity, as well as business license requirements. We also look at the competition. What is their market share? How good of a job are they doing? What is their pricing? What are the equipment breakdown and its condition? And we also have to consider the renovation cost.”

With his focus on planning and preparation, Clean N Fresh Laundry will certainly continue to grow.

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

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/BUSINESS+PROFILE/1666298/202319/article.html.

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