PlanetLaundry and Supplements Midwest Supplement Fall 2014 : Page 1

Supplement to the PlanetLaundry Magazine BUSINESS PROFILE STEVEN GOULD Fall 2014 | planetlaundry.com | coinlaundry.org Food for Thought Former Restaurant Manager Strikes Out on His Own in the Laundry Business Sheldon Hermann is no stranger to the business of serving the public. Prior to becoming the owner of Linwood Laundry in Indianapolis, he spent 16 years in the restaurant industry as a manager for a chain restaurant company. However, like so many others in the past, he had that urge to do something on his own. And, his experience in the restaurant business made him realize that his path to business ownership might not include serving food. “I really enjoyed the restaurant business, and I knew all too well what it involved, especially time-wise,” Sheldon explained. “It’s a tough business, and you definitely have to be married to it.” So, he set out to look for a business that he not only felt he could own and operate, but also one that he would enjoy. During this period of due diligence, a friend introduced him to the coin laundry business. “My friend is a banker,” Sheldon said. “He had a client who was ADVERTISERS AristoCraft | 15 Coin Laundry Insurance | 13 Coin Laundry Association | 15 Coin-O-Matic | Back Cover D&M Equipment | 05 D&M Service School | 09 Laundrylux | 02 Midwest Laundries | 07 continued on page 3

BUSINESS PROFILE

Steven Gould


Food for Thought

Sheldon Hermann is no stranger to the business of serving the public.

Prior to becoming the owner of Linwood Laundry in Indianapolis, he spent 16 years in the restaurant industry as a manager for a chain restaurant company. However, like so many others in the past, he had that urge to do something on his own. And, his experience in the restaurant business made him realize that his path to business ownership might not include serving food.

“I really enjoyed the restaurant business, and I knew all too well what it involved, especially time-wise,” Sheldon explained. “It’s a tough business, and you definitely have to be married to it.”

So, he set out to look for a business that he not only felt he could own and operate, but also one that he would enjoy. During this period of due diligence, a friend introduced him to the coin laundry business.

“My friend is a banker,” Sheldon said. “He had a client who was trying to get a business loan and also was looking to sell a coin laundry. So I started to look into it, and the whole business just made sense to me.”

While that particular store wasn't the one Sheldon would eventually purchase, it got him interested in the laundry industry. He continued to look into the business and became more and more comfortable with it.

“In my mind, it was very similar to the restaurant business, but you don’t have to deal with food, which makes it much simpler,” he explained. “And you don’t require as many employees. In the restaurant business, I would need 16 people per location, whereas with the coin laundry, I really need just one person to run a shift.

“I kept learning about the business and looking around,” he added. “Eventually, I found a location for sale, purchased it and just jumped right in and got my feet wet.”

That first store was purchased in March 2000 for approximately $65,000. The whole process took about two months, and Sheldon has happily been in the self-service laundry business ever since.

Although Sheldon had learned about the coin laundry business in general, there were a few aspects in which he was still unfamiliar. For example, he didn’t necessarily choose a particular location – instead he found a nice store that was for sale because the owner was looking to retire. With all of the details worked out, he purchased that store – only to discover later that a new laundromat was being built just a half-mile down the street.

“I guess my experience in the restaurant business made me headstrong, and I felt it wouldn’t be that big of an impact,” he said. “But restaurant cannibalization and laundromat cannibalization are two different things. We did have a challenge customer count-wise for a while.”

Despite that challenge, the store ran successfully for two and a half years, until Sheldon moved to his current, 2,700- square-foot location. That, too, was an existing laundry that had been shuttered for some time. Sheldon rebuilt the store from the ground up. The renovation and move took approximately three months to complete.

Today, Linwood Laundry is located within Linwood Square, a busy mall with considerable foot traffic. Sheldon’s store is flanked by phone stores on both sides. The strip center also includes a drug store, a Dollar General, a Subway, a beauty supply store, a game shop and a post office… among other small businesses.

“When we first opened here, the Dollar General wasn’t a tenant, and we used to sell a lot of soap through our vending machine,” Sheldon explained. “However, once the Dollar General opened, our soap sales dwindled to virtually nothing.”

The surrounding blue collar neighborhood consists of mainly single-family homes and duplexes. To help get the word out about Linwood Laundry, Sheldon advertises in a local biweekly Hispanic newspaper, as well as a monthly community paper. The store also is supported by a website, which was created with the help of the Coin Laundry Association.

Linwood Laundry is not the only game in town. According to Sheldon, there are two other laundromats within two and a half miles, and both locations have been built in the last three years. To help differentiate his store from the others, Sheldon has created a popular customer loyalty program. After a certain number of washes, customers receive a card that’s good for a free wash.

“My take on it is that some of the laundries in the area have a free dry or lower-priced wash on a certain day,” Sheldon explained. “With us, customers can come in and do their laundry any time we’re open, and they can earn free washes, which they can redeem any time they choose to do so. We’re not telling our customers when they have to come in to get their freebies.”

Linwood Laundry also offers free coffee and free WiFi access. What’s more the store also offers a wash-dry-fold service for $1 per pound, with a 15-pound minimum.

The laundromat is open daily at 8:00 a.m., with the last load at 9:30 p.m. The store is fully attended with one full-time employee and two part-time staffers. There are three televisions that can be tuned independently, so customers can watch whatever they want. In addition, the store includes arcade games and toy dispensers, along with a beverage and snack vending machines.

“I think one of my strengths is communicating with people and coaching employees,” Sheldon noted. “It's a skill I learned over the years in the restaurant business.”

And, although there’s nothing definite on the table at the moment, Sheldon admitted that he would like to open other stores and expand his laundry business in the future.

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/BUSINESS+PROFILE/1768433/218791/article.html.

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