PlanetLaundry and Supplements Northeast Supplement Fall 2015 : Page 1

Supplement to the PlanetLaundry Magazine BUSINESS PROFILE STEVEN GOULD Fall 2015 | planetlaundry.com | coinlaundry.org Still Running Smoothly Massachusetts Auto Mechanic Makes a Successful Jump to the Self-Service Laundry Industry However, a couple of common threads among many store operators are a background in working with the general public and an overall mechanical aptitude. Those skill sets certainly fit Marc Rabinovitz, who owns Crystal Laundromat in Wakefield, Mass. Before getting in to the self-service laundry business, Marc was an ASE-certified auto mechanic for 25 years, and he owned his own shop for 15 years. “I could take these machines down to the ball bearing level if I had to,” he said. ADVERTISERS Aristo Craft | 19 Coin Laundry Association | 15, 16 Coin Laundry Insurance | 11 Daniels Equipment | Back Cover Eastern Laundry Systems | 17 Gold Coin Laundry Equipment | 05 HK Laundry Equipment | 07 Laundrylux Financial | Inside Front Cover Metropolitan Laundry Machinery Company, Inc | 09 Metro–Chem | 12 Northeast Laundry Equipment | 13 PlanetLaundry | 13 Statewide Machinery | 13 Yankee Equipment Systems, Inc | 11 The majority of today’s laundry owners bring a wealth of experience and knowledge from a wide range of other industries and businesses. continued on page 3

BUSINESS PROFILE

Steven Gould

Still Running Smoothly

Massachusetts Auto Mechanic Makes a Successful Jump to the Self-Service Laundry Industry

The majority of today’s laundry owners bring a wealth of experience and knowledge from a wide range of other industries and businesses.

However, a couple of common threads among many store operators are a background in working with the general public and an overall mechanical aptitude.

Those skill sets certainly fit Marc Rabinovitz, who owns Crystal Laundromat in Wakefield, Mass. Before getting in to the self-service laundry business, Marc was an ASE certified auto mechanic for 25 years, and he owned his own shop for 15 years.

“I could take these machines down to the ball bearing level if I had to,” he said.

While searching for more of a cash-based business, Rabinovitz became attracted to the laundry industry. “I tried to get into the car wash business,” he explained. “But that’s a hard business to buy in to.”

One of the main advantages the laundry business has over the auto repair business is flexibility, according to Rabinovitz.

“To me, the laundromat business kind of gave me freedom,” he said. “When I had the garage, it was me and three other mechanics – and I was sort of like a babysitter. It was a business that I couldn’t leave. If I wasn’t there, I wasn’t making money for the shop; plus, things just wouldn’t go the way I wanted them to.”

As a result, Marc closed the auto repair shop in 2000, but he kept the real estate and became a commercial landlord. During this time, he also acquired two self-service laundries; however, he has since sold one of the stores and currently owns just Crystal Laundromat, which he leases.

Such a major change in businesses – from auto repair to coin laundry – presented somewhat of a learning curve, Rabinovitz admitted. The biggest obstacle was getting familiar with the machines.

“Learning the equipment, learning how to fix things and learning those basic types of procedures were probably the most difficult.” Marc said, adding that equipment diagnosis takes time to master. “You have to learn the ins and outs of the machines, and the basic things that can go bad. That's what takes a little knowledge and experience. You can fix anything, but you don’t want to waste an entire day trying to fix one machine. You want to know that you can get in and get out quickly.”

To shorten that learning curve, Marc wisely attended a number of service schools to find out as much about maintaining and troubleshooting his store’s equipment as possible.

Crystal Laundromat is located in a middle- to upper-class area. And, although Marc likes his store’s demographics, he said they used to be stronger.

However, the 2,500- square-foot laundry is situated in a busy location near a couple of convenience stores, restaurants and a drycleaning business. There also are a couple of hotels a few hair salons nearby.

Rabinovitz added that there also are three other laundromats located within a quarter-mile of Crystal. But, when it comes to the competition, he said he doesn’t worry about the others, choosing instead to keep the focus on his own business.

“My store is the biggest, and it’s fully attended,” he noted.

Marc also has done quite a bit of advertising over the years.

“We’ve sent out flyers and postcards, and advertised on the backs of register receipts within the local area,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense for me to advertise to people who are 20 miles away. My draw is within two to three miles.”

What’s more, Crystal Laundromat is active on Facebook and Yelp, even though it’s hard to tell how much action you’re really getting with those online vehicles, Marc said.

“When somebody looks up ‘Laundromats’ on Yelp, he or she may click on my laundry, and that click gets taken out of my account,” he stated. “But they can’t track whether or not that person who clicked actually came to my store.”

Crystal Laundromat also offers a wash-dry-fold service for $1.45 per pound. And, although Marc knows he should probably make more of an effort to seek out commercial accounts as well, he currently doesn’t do a lot of that. Building that type of business would require cold calls or door-to-door sales, which he admitted he’s not very comfortable with. In fact, Rabinovitz is happiest when he’s at the store working on machines and chatting up customers.

Today, most people carry smartphones or tablets to keep themselves occupied at the laundromat. However, for those who don’t or simply want a break from hand-held entertainment, Crystal Laundromat includes an old school pinball machine and a video arcade game. Marc leases these games and splits the profits with the owner of the machines.

Of course, the store also features a combination beverage/snack vending machine, which Marc owns, along with providing postal services for customers.

Crystal Laundromat’s doors open automatically at 5:00 a.m. – and either Marc, his wife or one of their three attendants will typically be there by 8:00 a.m. The laundry is open until 9:00 p.m. daily.

“Technically, I don’t think any of us are full-time employees, except for maybe me; I’m here every day.”

Clearly, Marc is thrilled to be in the self-service laundry industry, and he said he would consider opening more stores down the road, if the right situation came along.

“I’ve considered other stores in the past, but either the demographics were wrong or the lease was just too expensive,” he explained.

However, when that perfect opportunity comes along – with Marc’s mechanical skills and flair for customer service – he knows he’ll keep it running smoothly… and profitably.

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

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/BUSINESS+PROFILE/2248909/269951/article.html.

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