PlanetLaundry and Supplements Midwest Supplement to August JRNL, Fall 2011 : Page 1

Fall 2011 | planetlaundry.com | coinlaundry.org Midwest B US IN E S S P RO F I L E STEVEN GOULD Investing for Retirement St. Louis Couple Builds Coin Laundry Nest Egg When a distributor of laundromat equipment from Colorado came to St. Louis looking for prospective clients, it seemed like a good opportunity for AAA Remodeling Company. “My daughter had lived in Colorado for several years,” said Betty Wiese, owner of WashCity in St. Louis. “She had become acquainted with the people that install the laundry equipment. My husband, Mark, had owned AAA Remodeling for 42 years. It seemed like a good opportunity to pick up some extra work building laundromats for prospective clients.” After some discussions with the Colorado distributor, Betty thought, “Why not build one of those laundromats for me as an investment for my retirement years?” The demographics presented by the distributor showed that it could be a profitable investment, which isn’t always the case. Based upon those demographics provided by the distributor, Betty and Mark chose a location and opened WashCity in December 2005. They lease the 4,000-square-foot building, but own all of the equipment and building contents. The equipment will be paid off in two years. The building was built new from the ground up. AAA Remodeling Company did all the interior construction and work on the building. One would think that having your own construction company would make for a smooth and cost-effective process. But that wasn’t necessarily the case. The whole process took about four months. “We thought we were getting a ‘white box’ building,” Betty said. “But we had to finish off the majority of the interior at our expense. That came to approximately $300,000.” Other expenses included $290,000 for laundry equipment and $2,400 for signage and banners. They also purchased five televisions for $1,200 and some folding tables, continued on page 6 ADVERTISERS BDS Laundry Systems | 8 Century Laundry | 12 CLA Insurance | 7 D&M Equipment | 5 KeeWes Equipment | 2 Lakeside Laundry Equipment Co | 7 LaundryFest 2011 | 11 MidAmerica Equipment Co | 7 Midwest Laundries Inc | 9 Tanning Supplies Unlimited | 11

BUSINESS PROFILE

STEVEN GOULD


Investing for Retirement

St. Louis Couple Builds Coin Laundry Nest Egg

When a distributor of laundromat equipment from Colorado came to St. Louis looking for prospective clients, it seemed like a good opportunity for AAA Remodeling Company.

“My daughter had lived in Colorado for several years,” said Betty Wiese, owner of WashCity in St. Louis. “She had become acquainted with the people that install the laundry equipment. My husband, Mark, had owned AAA Remodeling for 42 years. It seemed like a good opportunity to pick up some extra work building laundromats for prospective clients.”

After some discussions with the Colorado distributor, Betty thought, “Why not build one of those laundromats for me as an investment for my retirement years?”

The demographics presented by the distributor showed that it could be a profitable investment, which isn’t always the case.

Based upon those demographics provided by the distributor, Betty and Mark chose a location and opened WashCity in December 2005. They lease the 4,000-square-foot building, but own all of the equipment and building contents. The equipment will be paid off in two years. The building was built new from the ground up. AAA Remodeling Company did all the interior construction and work on the building.

One would think that having your own construction company would make for a smooth and cost-effective process. But that wasn’t necessarily the case. The whole process took about four months.

“We thought we were getting a ‘white box’ building,” Betty said. “But we had to finish off the majority of the interior at our expense. That came to approximately $300,000.”

Other expenses included $290,000 for laundry equipment and $2,400 for signage and banners. They also purchased five televisions for $1,200 and some folding tables, benches and round tables with seating for an additional $4,980. Then, there was the office equipment, such as the cash register, phones and an “Open” sign.

Now that the store has been open for a few years and things have settled in, Betty is satisfied with the location of WashCity.

“A lot of our customers live in nearby apartment buildings,” she explained. “Many of those buildings have laundry rooms, but our customers prefer WashCity as it is cleaner and has better washers and dryers.We also get a lot of home owners who come in to do large items, such as rugs, mattress pads, comforters, blankets and even dog beds.”

Betty also noted that some of the homeowners simply don’t have a washer or dryer.

There is a strong mix of other businesses near the store. Aside from the pizzeria in front of WashCity, there is an auto parts store and a paint store. So, when those folks get their clothes dirty, they know where they can get them clean again. In addition, there is a nearby strip mall with a Subway, a nail salon and a bar and grill. Also close by are a community church and a fitness center.

Within a five-mile radius, there are three competitors as well.

To help promote the business, Betty joined the local Chamber of Commerce.

“Our landlord owns a pizzeria, which is right in front of our store,” she said. “When we first opened, he let us put flyers on the pizza boxes to announce our opening.We also gave the woman who runs the Welcome Wagon program 150 vending size boxes of Tide with the WashCity location and a coupon for a free wash – and she gave us only three boxes back.”

More recently, Betty has gotten involved with the local rec center, putting up a display with photos of WashCity and coupons for discounted washes. She also participated in a coat and blanket drive benefitting the greater St. Louis area, laundered donated clothes for a local food bank and passed out flyers to homes in the area.

Setting WashCity apart from the other laundries in the area has been an ongoing process.

“We have an attendant on duty from when we open at 7 a.m. until we close at 10 p.m.,” Betty noted. “We have five part-time attendants on staff, so there is always someone here to help customers.”

What’s more,WashCity has a dedicated children’s play area, a number of video games and free WiFi for customers.

WashCity offers a variety of drop-off laundry services, including a same-day wash-dry-fold service for 99 cents per pound with a 10-pound minimum. The store also cleans comforters for $10 for a twin or full size and $15 for a king or queen. However, there is a $3 surcharge for down-filled comforters.

To promote these services,WashCity relies on exterior signage, as well as good old word-of-mouth.

“We have a lot of construction workers that come to town for a few months and then leave,” Betty explained. “They bring in their drop-off laundry, and then they’ll often refer us to the people that work with them.We also have a lot of single men who drop off their laundry on a regular basis. And a lot of our customers who drop off their comforters recommend us to their friends.”

While most of WashCity’s business comes from residential customers, the Wieses has been able to attract some commercial accounts as well, including laundering towels for a local hair salon.

To enhance the laundry day experience for their customers and to add a few extra dollars to the bottom line,WashCity boasts two video games, a pinball machine and a soda vending machine. Also, the Wieses sell gourmet chocolate chip cookies and a variety of other snacks at the counter.

“We want our customers to look forward to doing their laundry at WashCity,” Betty said.

And while she and Mark are satisfied with the success of WashCity, they are not looking to open another location anytime soon.

“This laundromat is all we can handle,” she said with a smile.

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

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/BUSINESS+PROFILE/793979/76689/article.html.

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