PlanetLaundry and Supplements West Supplement Fall 2014 : Page 1
Supplement to the PlanetLaundry Magazine B USINESS PROFILE S TEV EN G OU L D Fall 2014 | planetlaundry.com | coinlaundry.org ‘I Could Really See the Potential in This Business…’ Former Butcher Celebrates Second Year in the Coin Laundry Business One might say that Albert Touron – the owner of Sudz Coin Laundry in Sunnyvale, Calif. – has joined the “clean side.” The self-service laundry business was not Al’s first foray into business ownership. In fact, he spent 27 years as a butcher – 18 of those years owning his own shop. “Then, for the last eight years, before I opened up Sudz Coin Laundry, I was an outside sales rep for a protein wholesaler,” Al said. “I sold to the high-end markets of restaurants, country clubs, hotels and the continued on page 3 like – pounding the pavement for 12 hours a day getting new customers, as well as taking care of my existing ones. I also spent eight years on the side as a chef for a high-end catering company.” So, rather than cleaning clothes, he used to get them rather dirty. After all of those years in the food industry, what was it that got Al interested in the laundry business? “The last year of my outside sales gig, I was working with a guy who was about ADVERTISERS Coin Laundry Insurance | Back Cover Continental Girbau West | 05 Laundrylux | 02 Sunshine Sales | 07
‘I Could Really See the Potential in This Business…’<br /> <br /> Former Butcher Celebrates Second Year in the Coin Laundry Business<br /> <br /> One might say that Albert Touron – the owner of Sudz Coin Laundry in Sunnyvale, Calif. – has joined the “clean side.”<br /> <br /> The self-service laundry business was not Al’s first foray into business ownership. In fact, he spent 27 years as a butcher – 18 of those years owning his own shop.<br /> <br /> “Then, for the last eight years, before I opened up Sudz Coin Laundry, I was an outside sales rep for a protein wholesaler,” Al said. “I sold to the high-end markets of restaurants, country clubs, hotels and the like – pounding the pavement for 12 hours a day getting new customers, as well as taking care of my existing ones. I also spent eight years on the side as a chef for a high-end catering company.”<br /> <br /> So, rather than cleaning clothes, he used to get them rather dirty.<br /> <br /> After all of those years in the food industry, what was it that got Al interested in the laundry business?<br /> <br /> “The last year of my outside sales gig, I was working with a guy who was about six years my senior,” he explained. “He had owned three coin laundries at one time; he gave one to his son-in-law, he sold one and the last one he still owned. He told me about his business, how he ran it, how much money he was bringing in each week, and he was very excited about this cash business.<br /> <br /> “I used to do some janitorial work, so one time he asked me if I could help him do his floor,” Al continued. “As we were working and talking, I could really see the potential in this business to make money and not have to work so hard.”<br /> <br /> Al also saw the flexibility to better control his time.<br /> <br /> “I wish I would have had a laundromat built for me when I was 24, instead of a butcher shop,” he said. “So, I decided I was going to do this and quit my full-time day job as a sales rep pounding the streets for 12 hours a day – and that’s what convinced me to open up my own laundromat. Come September I’ll have been open for two years.”<br /> <br /> Al chose to work with California-based laundry distributor PWS.<br /> <br /> “They had two or three locations for me to look at,” he explained. “And this one here – with the money and cost to open, as well as the front and back parking and the potential – I thought, ‘I’m going to do it!’”<br /> <br /> Not that there weren’t some bumps along the road. For instance, the 1,700-square-foot location previously had been a candy shop, so the water/sewer and gas lines weren’t large enough to accommodate a commercial laundromat. What’s more, the connections weren’t close enough to the store.<br /> <br /> “I hit a huge snag,” Al explained. “I was originally planning to open in August 2011, but I didn’t open until August 28, 2012. I opened 13 months late, which cost me a tremendous amount of money. I had to pay about six or seven months of back rent. The landlord was going to give me seven months of free rent, and I still ended up with seven months that I had to pay.<br /> <br /> “There was no gas or water hookup. It was about a football field in length to get my gas and water connections. I had some issues with the city and with the landlord.”<br /> <br /> Needless to say, by the time Sudz Coin Laundry finally opened, Al was a bit ticked off at the whole situation. The entire process – from signing the lease to opening the doors – had taken almost 18 months and cost close to $400,000, with $140,000 of it coming directly from Al’s bank account.<br /> <br /> Sudz Coin Laundry is located in the Silicon Valley – and, fittingly, Al has certainly taken advantage of the available technology. His store is completely computerized from the locks on the doors to all of the washers and dryers.<br /> <br /> “All of my machines are computerized,” he said. “I can log into the network from anywhere in the world using LogMeIn. I can turn my machines on and off; I can reprogram them; I can start and stop them; and I can see how much money is in every machine and exactly where it is in a cycle.”<br /> <br /> Those involved in the technology industry like seeing technology at work, and Sudz has a number of techies as customers, along with a wide variety of clientele. The area around the store is diverse, consisting of lower-income families in multi-family dwellings, upper-class single-family homes and everything in between.<br /> <br /> The laundry is located in an older strip mall with a lot of foot traffic generated by a wide variety of businesses. There are three restaurants, a sports bar, a 24-hour fitness center and a gas station. In addition, there is a kickboxing gym, a liquor store, a dance studio, hair salons and barber shops.<br /> <br /> Because Al is also an avid gardener, he has placed planters all around the shopping center (not only in front of his store) and has planted a variety of flowers and plants. He finds the time to maintain them all and keep the entire mall looking great.<br /> <br /> Al has tried to differentiate Sudz from the other coin laundries in town in a number of ways. In addition to the high-tech touches embedded in his store, he keeps his business spotless. Al describes himself as a bit of a clean freak, so all of the machines are not only cleaned, but waxed regularly to a spit polish shine. The store is well-lit, clean and inviting.<br /> <br /> To promote the business, Al has developed a website, as well as placing ads on Google and Yelp. He has designed his own flyers and personally distributed them.<br /> <br /> “I started out with zero customers,” he said. “I had the flyers made and then went to the various apartment complexes and hung them on all of the doors. I’d drive from one complex to the next and spend about four hours walking hallways and climbing stairs. It was good exercise.”<br /> <br /> Over the course of time, Al has distributed about 3,000 flyers. And, of course, his online ads also help out.<br /> <br /> “These days everyone looks things up on their mobile devices,” he explained. “My online presence has been a tremendous draw for me.”<br /> <br /> Along with keeping the store (and mall) clean and beautiful, Al has designed his store to keep customers occupied while their laundry is in the machines – in fact, he likes to say that his entire store is a children’s play area. There is snack and beverage vending, along with a couple of televisions. Sudz also features a number of machines where children can get super balls and other small trinkets, as well as a couple of crane machines that offer up the chance to win candy and stuffed animals. There also is a scale where the kids can weigh themselves and receive a prize.<br /> <br /> The laundry is unattended except for Al, who is usually around at some point seven days a week. The store opens automatically at 6 a.m. daily – and it closes at 10 p.m., with the last wash at 8:45.<br /> <br /> Al has been very pleased with the performance of Sudz Coin Laundry, adding that it has been everything he expected – and that he would seriously consider opening another store when the time is right.<br /> <br /> “I've only been open two years, so I’m not actively looking right now,” he said.<br /> <br /> However, don’t be surprised to see a Sudz Coin Laundry II in the not-too-distant future.<br /> <br /> Steven Gould is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area.
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