PlanetLaundry and Supplements Regional Supp to the Journal Southeast August 2011 : Page 1

Fall 2011 | | Southeast BUS IN E S S P R O FI L E STEVEN GOULD An Offer He Couldn’t Refuse ADVERTISERS Laundry Pro of Florida, Inc. | 7 Pierce Commercial Laundry Distributors | 2 Southeastern Laundry Equipment Sales | 16 Southern Automatic Machinery Company | 13 T&L Equipment Sales Co., Inc. | 11 Uniwasher | 9 Wholesale Commercial Laundry Equipment SE | 10 Florida Entrepreneur Knows a Good Business Opportunity When He Sees One It’s not always what you know that serves you best. Yes, many people eventually find their way into the self-service laundry business after gaining experience in a separate segment of the textile care industry, such as drycleaning. Some current coin laundry owners may continued on page 6



An Offer He Couldn’t Refuse Florida Entrepreneur Knows a Good Business Opportunity When He Sees One It’s not always what you know that serves you best.

Yes, many people eventually find their way into the self-service laundry business after gaining experience in a separate segment of the textile care industry, such as drycleaning. Some current coin laundry owners may have spent years on the commercial side of the business and now prefer to try their hand on the retail side.

William Souden had no such background or past experience in the laundry business. But what he had was a tremendous opportunity, which in the end he simply couldn’t pass up.

Souden had spent a number of years working in the computer industry, as well as owning and running a factory. In fact, buying and operating a self-service laundry business wasn’t something that Souden was thinking about or aiming for down the road – it wasn’t even a blip on his radar.

But, along came this wonderful opportunity.

“I knew someone in the business that wanted to sell,” he explained.

He also knew that it was a successful business and decided that it might be a solid investment – for now as well as for the future. After doing some research, he determined that the laundromat in question was indeed a good, steady business that filled a true need within its community.

“I view it as more of a necessity business, as opposed to a luxury business,” Souden noted. “After all, no matter what the economy is doing, people will always need clean clothes, sheets and linens.”

Upon completing his due diligence, Souden followed through and seized the opportunity. And, on February 1, 2007, he purchased Cali’s Soap Suds in Middleburg, Fla.

Middleburg is a small community located about 29 miles southwest of downtown Jacksonville, which has been experiencing somewhat of a rebirth of late and has been growing quickly.

In addition, there is a lot of open space around Cali’s Soap Suds. And, as a result, as that raw land gets further developed and the apartment buildings and single-family homes continue to fill up, the need for a quality self-service laundry grows. Of course, with a long-standing reputation within the community for offering quality service, this economic mini-boom can only be a good thing for Souden as he seeks to grow his business.

Souden’s initial investment in the business was approximately $40,000. It took exactly one day to complete the transaction and, just like that, Souden was a proud new member of the coin laundry industry family.

Although it may appear to have been a smooth and easy transition, that wasn’t necessarily the case. And, as opposed to starting a business from the ground up, purchasing an existing business brings to the table an entirely different set of circumstances.

No, Souden didn’t have to sift through reams of demographic studies to determine whether one potential laundry location was superior to another. Nor did he have to endure a lengthy and costly build-out process, with its inevitable delays and cost overruns. However, that’s not to say there weren’t some surprises along the way.

“My first surprise was the staff,” Souden explained. “It’s an attendant-run laundry. I have two full-time employees and one part-time attendant at the store.”

There also was an issue with some of the equipment at first.

“On the day I took over, I found out that half of the equipment didn’t work,” he said.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long to smooth things out at the store, and then the “new” Cali’s Soap Suds was off and running. Whether you build from the ground up or purchase an existing business, one axiom remains true – it’s all about location, location, location.

And the location of Souden’s store is what many would consider ideal.

“I have no competitors in the area,” he explained.

What’s more, the laundry is located in a busy shopping center, which is anchored by a large Winn-Dixie supermarket. There also are a number of fast-food restaurants, either within the shopping center or very close by. In addition, the marketplace features a Family Dollar store, a car wash and a drycleaner. Cali’s also is near Middleburg’s public library.

So, aside from being the only laundromat around, its location is extremely convenient for the store’s customers – they can drop off their drycleaning, get something to eat and check out a book while getting their laundry done.

Furthermore, Souden provides a number of services and conveniences to ensure that Cali’s Soap Suds will be the desired stop on laundry day.

“I do offer a number convenience services,” he said. “We provide wash-dry-fold services for $1.10 per pound. For the same price, we also offer commercial services. There is a chiropractic clinic nearby that uses our service, and we also have agreements with a number of rental properties that don’t have their own laundry rooms.”

In fact, although Souden couldn’t determine the exact percentage of his business that wash-dry-fold and commercial accounts represent, it is a substantial amount – and, of course, he said he would always be happy to take on more.

The tiled, 1,750-square-foot facility is leased from the shopping center’s management company; however, Souden owns all of the laundry equipment outright. And he has done his best to make Cali’s as comfortable and relaxing a place as possible for customers to come to do their laundry. There is ample seating, as well as coloring books for the kids, Souden noted. The store also features two televisions – a 32-inch TV and a 23-inch model.

The card-operated store – which is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily – also provides soda and snack vending machines, along with a soap vending for customer convenience.

Cali’s Soap Suds draws its clientele from the surrounding neighborhoods, which include a solid mix of single-family homes and apartment complexes.

“My customers are just your average, hard-working people,” he explained. “Nice people.”

Since taking ownership of Cali’s more than four years ago, Souden has been very happy with the business. Yes, he may have experienced a few minor hiccups after he first took the reins, but taking all things into account, he feels his first foray into the self-service laundry business has been a good – and profitable – decision.

And, because Cali’s Soap Suds is the only store in its marketplace, Souden also can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that he is serving an important need within his community.

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

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