PlanetLaundry and Supplements Southeast Supplement Fall 2015 : Page 1
Supplement to the PlanetLaundry Magazine B USINESS PROFILE S TEV EN G OU L D Fall 2015 | planetlaundry.com | coinlaundry.org A Finely Tuned ‘Machine’ New Owner Has Florida-Based Laundry/Car Wash Business on the Road to Success Karrie Durgan is the hard-working owner of the multi-purpose Clean Machine II in Bushnell, Fla. The store is not only a self-service laundry, but it also features a section for drop-off drycleaning and an attached car wash. So, Clean Machine II customers can bring in their drycleaning, do their laundry and get their cars washed all in one fell swoop. On top of that, Durgan’s business is attached to a Walmart parking lot, so customers can get their shopping done as well. There also are restaurants and a gas station nearby, making Clean Machine II the nearly perfect one-stop shopping destination. ADVERTISERS Coin Laundry Association | 14, 17, 19 Coin Laundry Insurance | 12 Commercial & Coin Laundry Equipment | 12 Laundrylux Financial Services | Inside Front Cover LaundryPro | 05, 17 Pierce Commercial | 07, 09 PlanetLaundry | 13 SLM Commercial Laundry Products | 10 Southeastern Laundry Equipment | Back Cover Southern Automatic Machinery | 13 Statewide | 06 T&L Equipment Sales Company Inc | 15 continued on page 3
A Finely Tuned ‘Machine’
New Owner Has Florida-Based Laundry/Car Wash Business on the Road to Success
Karrie Durgan is the hard-working owner of the multi-purpose Clean Machine II in Bushnell, Fla.
The store is not only a self-service laundry, but it also features a section for drop-off drycleaning and an attached car wash. So, Clean Machine II customers can bring in their drycleaning, do their laundry and get their cars washed all in one fell swoop.
On top of that, Durgan’s business is attached to a Walmart parking lot, so customers can get their shopping done as well. There also are restaurants and a gas station nearby, making Clean Machine II the nearly perfect one-stop shopping destination.
Owning and operating such a multifaceted facility was not something Durgan originally set out to do.
“I was in a supervisory/management role for a manufacturer that closed up,” she said. “After that business closed the doors, I had free time. A friend of mine owned this store and he needed a break, so I came here to help him out.”
As it turned out, Durgan rather enjoyed the laundry business.
“It’s one of those things that really grows on you,” she explained. “You don’t realize what a people person you really are until you start to interact with the different types of people who come through the door. My friend decided it was time to sell, so I bought it from him.”
Durgan hadn’t owned a business before – yet this turned out to be one of life’s pleasant surprises that just sort of happened. And, although many laundry owners point to the flexibility in work hours this type of business affords them, Karrie sees it somewhat differently.
“When you own it and operate it, there is no free time,” she noted. “My biggest advantage in owning this place is all of the experiences along the way, just the joy of talking with people all day. You learn to get a grip on reality, because you see and hear from all kinds.”
Durgan took over Clean Machine II in 2010, and she currently owns the property. After the purchase, she undertook a major renovation and store expansion with new equipment and a fresh look that nearly doubled the size of the facility.
“The building was originally divided up into five spaces,” she explained. “I now have four of those spaces, and the fifth is rented to a hair salon. We went from 1,440 square feet to 2,880 square feet.”
Of course, no matter how much planning you do, that type of remodeling is bound to have a few “gotchas” – and Durgan’s remodel was no exception.
“You better be really sure of your measurements and where you’re putting your equipment,” she warned. “That all had to be changed during the process, because some things came out a bit farther than I wanted.
“When I was doing the expansion, I didn’t own the building at the time or the car wash,” she continued. “Where I wanted to put my new equipment that was coming in, the landlord at the time wouldn’t allow me to move the restroom. So, right in the middle of the process of everything, I had to try to figure out a new location for the equipment. Unfortunately, they happened to be the large 80-pound machines, so I needed a lot of space.”
Even with these changes, the renovation project took only about two months. The purchase for the laundry itself cost Durgan $400,000 and the renovation tacked on an additional $60,000. And, when she decided to purchase the entire plaza and the car wash, that acquisition cost another $1.1 million – all of which Karrie feels has been a great investment.
“We are beautifully located, and it was worth every cent,” she said.
Bushnell is situated just off of the interstate between Orlando and Tampa Bay in central Florida. And, as mentioned earlier, Durgan’s plaza is attached to a Walmart parking lot – with plenty of fast food restaurants and gas stations nearby, which generate a considerable amount of traffic. In addition, Clean Machine II is located in a predominately working class area, with two RV parks directly across the street from the laundromat.
Durgan said she does some advertising and promotion for her laundry business, but she “doesn’t get too carried away.”
“Of course, we have our signage,” she said. “A couple of times a year, we put advertisements in the local paper or run spots with our local radio station. We also hang banners and announcements at the football games and other sporting events in town. And we’re active on Facebook and Google.”
Clean Machine II is not alone in this marketplace. There are four other self-service laundries in the area. However, Durgan tries to differentiate her business from the competition by keeping her laundry clean, bright, updated and well attended, which she sees as a huge advantage.
“I have yet to see an unattended laundry that looks successful,” she explained. “I could be wrong, but I just couldn’t imagine not being at my store every day. Probably our biggest advertising comes from happy customers and positive word-of-mouth.”
And the various businesses drive customers to each other, according to Durgan. People go to get their car washed, and then they see the laundromat – or vice versa. Also, the hair salon at the end of Durgan’s building has a number of clients who will use the drop-off drycleaning service.
“The nearest drycleaner is 15 miles or more away,” Durgan said. “We gain quite a bit in our drycleaning business just from the salon being there.”
Along with everything else, Clean Machine II offers a wash-dry-fold service for $1.10 per pound, with a 10- pound minimum.
“We do a lot of wash-dry-fold laundry, and the majority of that business comes from referring customers,” Durgan noted.
Moreover, although Karrie doesn’t actively seek out commercial accounts, they seem to have found her.
“They’re not huge accounts,” Durgan said. “I have the Florida National Cemetery; we do work for the local police department; and we do band uniforms and choir gowns for a couple of the local high schools.”
The self-service laundry portion of Clean Machine II is open from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, with the dropoff drycleaning segment open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The store features snack and beverage vending, WiFi access and a 52-inch television with a satellite hookup. There are three attendants on duty at the laundry, along with one employee at the car wash.
And Durgan is the glue that holds it all together. “I don’t think I have a specific business strength,” she said. “I just have many things combined into one.”
Although the current business keeps her busy, Karrie would love to open another car wash/laundry combo in the future. And she said the next one will be even bigger and better.
Steven Gould is a freelance business writer based in the Chicago area.
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