PlanetLaundry and Supplements Northeast Supplement Fall 2014 : Page 1

Supplement to the PlanetLaundry Magazine BUSINESS PROFILE STEVEN GOULD Fall 2014 | planetlaundry.com | coinlaundry.org ‘Hop’ To It Connecticut’s Sock Hop Coin Laundries Pay Homage to 1950s Pop Culture “Because there are bright florescent lights, white walls and that ‘soda pop diner’ feel to the place, people are always commenting about how beautiful and unique it is.” The calendar is moving closer to the 2050s than the 1950s, but that bygone era is still recalled fondly by many people – even those who never lived through it. Such is the case with Gerry Casey, the owner of two Sock Hop Coin Laundries in the Milford, Conn., area. The stores’ decor harkens back to that simple and carefree time. They sport black-and-white checkerboard floors with round, red soda-shop-type tables, along with red and chrome barstool-style seating. The walls are covered with 1950s memorabilia and murals depicting the poodle skirts and roller-skating car hops of those past times, as well as ’57 Chevys and other assorted hotrods. The laundries even feature the doo-wop music of the ’50s, to the delight of young and old alike. What’s more, all of the signage is in a vintage red-and-white theme, as opposed to the stereotypical “laundromat blue.” “Everywhere I looked, everything was blue and white – blue walls, ADVERTISERS AC Power Company Inc | Inside Front Cover Aristo Craft | 19 Coin Laundry Insurance | 16 Daniels Equipment | Back Cover Direct Machinery | 05 Gold Coin Laundry Equipment | 07 HK Laundry Equipment | 11 Metropolitan Laundry Machinery Company, Inc | 13 Northeast Laundry Equipment | 17 QualClean Equipment LLC | 17 Statewide Machinery | 09 Yankee Equipment Systems, Inc | 15 continued on page 3

BUSINESS PROFILE

Steven Gould


“Because there are bright florescent lights, white walls and that ‘soda pop diner’ feel to the place, people are always commenting about how beautiful and unique it is.”

‘Hop’ To It
Connecticut’s Sock Hop Coin Laundries Pay Homage to 1950s Pop Culture

The calendar is moving closer to the 2050s than the 1950s, but that bygone era is still recalled fondly by many people – even those who never lived through it.

Such is the case with Gerry Casey, the owner of two Sock Hop Coin Laundries in the Milford, Conn., area.

The stores’ decor harkens back to that simple and carefree time. They sport black-and-white checkerboard floors with round, red soda-shoptype tables, along with red and chrome barstool-style seating. The walls are covered with 1950s memorabilia and murals depicting the poodle skirts and roller-skating car hops of those past times, as well as ’57 Chevys and other assorted hotrods.

The laundries even feature the doo-wop music of the ’50s, to the delight of young and old alike. What’s more, all of the signage is in a vintage red-and-white theme, as opposed to the stereotypical “laundromat blue.”

“Everywhere I looked, everything was blue and white – blue walls, blue tables, just blue, blue, blue… and I wanted to be a little different,” Gerry explained. “You can look through the trade magazines and get blue-and-white signs for 10 bucks, but they’re always blue and white. Everything in my store is red. You can’t buy those things mass-produced anywhere, and I had to pay a little extra to get those signs in my color scheme. I probably paid four times what off-the-shelf signs would have cost me. But it hits the nail right on the head when you talk about differentiating yourself from the competition.”

Gerry joined the coin laundry industry two years ago with his first store, and eight months ago he opened his second laundry – so the theme seems to be paying off.

In addition to the memorable theme, Gerry noted that cleanliness is the key to his success.

“I’m kind of a Type A individual, the kind who details his car with Q-Tips and Armor All,” he said. “I always tell my attendants that I wouldn’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. I, literally, keep toothbrushes in the store just to get the lint and buildup out of cracks and cup holders, because you can wipe them down all day long but grime is still in the seams and grooves. So, I’ll take Windex and a toothbrush and get in to all of those little cracks and things – and I ask my staff to do the same. It’s not a punishment; it’s just something we do to differentiate the store from the ones down the street and around the corner.

“Because there are bright florescent lights, white walls and that ‘soda pop diner’ feel to the place, people are always commenting about how beautiful and unique it is,” he added. “I’ve had people say to me that they come from three towns over to do their laundry here just because they really like the place.”

Although a clean store is important, Gerry also knows that he has to provide somewhere for his customers to relax and wait for their wash to run through all of the cycles.

“It seems almost ridiculous to tell you, but the second store I bought literally had no waiting area,” he explained. “It had two folding chairs stuck in a corner, and if you sat down in them and someone went to use the machines in front of you, they would be sticking their butts in your face while they were loading the machines.

“It was that cramped. It just wasn’t an efficient use of space. I had to spend almost $1,000 to relocate two machines so that I could create a comfortable waiting area. I put a coffee bar along the front window of the store with stools so that there’s a place for customers to sit, read the paper and have a cup of coffee. What’s the point in having free Wifiif there isn’t a place to sit and play on your smartphone?”

Although the store is running smoothly now, there were a few hiccups at the beginning. During the remodeling, the water and gas were shut off. Nevertheless, at one point, Gerry still received an enormous water bill. As it turned out, the water company misread the meter and sent him a bill for enough water to fill a football-field-sized swimming pool.

But that’s not all. It seems that sometime before Gerry purchased his first laundry, the store had been enlarged from its original size. There used to be two different storefronts in the mall, and when the laundry expanded, a wall was torn down between the two stores to create one larger facility.

Since these stores had been separate businesses, they each had their own water meter. Gerry had been paying all of his bills on time and in full; however, sometime after he opened, he again got a somewhat large water bill. That's when he found out about the second water meter – and this time he really did owe the utility bill.

Although Gerry’s two Sock Hop Coin Laundry stores are only about four miles apart, the demographics are a bit different. The first store is located in a mall that contains other local businesses – including a bar/restaurant that is actually owned by his niece, a convenience store, a pizzeria, a Chinese restaurant and a tattoo parlor. The area surrounding the shopping center consists mainly of single-family homes. The second Sock Hop is based in a mall with more national chains, such as Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts and Dairy Queen. The stores are about seven miles from the New Haven area, which is ripe with summer cottages and rental units.

Both Sock Hop laundries – which are each 2,000 square feet – face some nearby competition. So, to promote his businesses, Gerry – on that advice of some of the members of the New England Coin Laundry Association – advertised on the backs of grocery store receipts. It was a year-long commitment, but it helped to get the Sock Hop name out in the marketplace, and Gerry said he feels as though it was money well spent.

Both laundromats are open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The first store features a wash-dryfold service from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then again from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The second store offers a drop-off drycleaning service as well.

The Sock Hop Coin Laundries employ eight part-time attendants, with some of these staffers working at both stores, while others are stationed at just one location.

Overall, Gerry has been pleased with his early experiences in the coin laundry business and, in fact, is considering adding an additional store to the mix.

“I’ve only been in the industry for a couple of years, and if I do it again, I’d like to look into a fully automated store,” he explained. “I also want to look into the demographics a bit more, and perhaps find a location in a more urban setting.”

With a strong financial background and a growing knowledge of the self-service laundry industry, whatever route Gerry takes is likely to be a successful one.

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

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/BUSINESS+PROFILE/1799384/223513/article.html.

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