I get calls all the time from people who want to open a Laundromat. As I've said before, it's a popular business with many compelling owner benefits:
A flexible schedule. A casual dress code. Typically nice customers engaged in a simple task and who make few demands. Its un-stressful nature. A good return on investment and being your own boss.
You’re thinking, sign me up! Right?
Before you do, allow me to dispel some myths about the laundry business:
1. Laundromat businesses, or more accurately, laundry owners do fail.
2. It's a simple business, but not easy.
3. If you want to enjoy success you can’t just go there two days a week and collect money.
4. Emergencies happen - sometimes you will end up there when you don’t wish to be.
5. It is not absentee-run unless you are willing to pay a good and trustworthy manager a good salary.
6. There is plenty of competition.
7. It's not inexpensive to enter nor maintain a laundry business. Equipment, walls, folding tables, floors, fans, changers and everything else people use and abuse do not last forever, thus you will have ongoing capital expenses.
All that being said, many people still want to start their own laundry business. I joke with friends that if I had a Laundromat for everyone who called me I would be a very, very busy individual and doing quite well. Unfortunately for the buyers out there, and me, there are few available stores that make good investment sense, for a variety of reasons:
Many stores are expensive.
The location may not be right for where the buyer lives.
Financing for buying a store may be unavailable if the current owner kept poor records.
The store may need new equipment that requires an even bigger investment.
The owner is asking too much even when they can prove the income they claim.
So what to do?
1. First and foremost you have to be patient. I speak to people who have been looking for years and still haven’t found the right store.
2. Secondly you must understand there is no perfect store out there. If the store you were seeking was perfect it wouldn’t be for sale. The owner would keep it or someone else would likely have beaten you to it. Ultimately you must pull the trigger if you want to be in the business, so I advise figuring out up front what deficiencies you can manage.
3. Third, there is no perfect deal. If one party is walking away very, very happy I would guess in most cases it wasn’t a win-win. Each party needs to give a little something.
4. Lastly, at some point you need to simply go for it. If you want to be a laundry business owner then you are going to encounter challenges and be willing to take on some risk.
As cliche as it may sound after you have investigated the best you can, make a good decision from a position of strength and just do it!
Those who call me generally either want to buy a laundry store or start one anew. We've covered some of the difficulties in buying a store. Is building one from the ground up a viable option? In most cases I would say no, unless you have very deep pockets and are willing to deal with city planners, building departments, inspections, contractors, off sites (such as bringing in additional power and proper sewer line) and most onerous of all: impact fees typically associated with the sewer usage. All of this is very expensive and time consuming and by now you probably know that equipment isn't cheap and the tenant improvements necessary for opening a Laundromat are extensive and costly.
Finding a location for a new store can be a challenge as well. What neighborhood do you know of in need of a Laundromat that does not already have one (or two or three)? Right off the bat you will have plenty of competition. If you are dead set on opening a new store pick an area with poor competition. A lot of owners of derelict laundries figure people will come no matter what. If it's the only game in town this may be true but if you as the builder of a new Laundromat do it right people will flee an outdated, dirty, neglected laundry in droves! What are the three key words to a successful Laundromat? Clean, bright and safe! Add to this good equipment and good service and in the right neighborhood you should do just fine whether building new or refurbishing existing.
Another way to enter the laundry business is to assume a lease, or pay some "walking away money" on a failed ownership and try to add value. In cases I’ve observed where a new owner turned around a failed Laundromat, they made a series of good decisions:
Executing high-quality tenant improvements,
Installing new and large-capacity equipment,
Upgrading customer service, and
Undertaking effective promotion and marketing strategies.
Remember, Laundromats don’t fail: owners do.
If I had my druthers I would be looking for the "value add" store as just described. They are hard to find, and you have to be in the right place at the right time. They are also more work to get going (though less than building a new store), but you have a say about design and equipment mix and you can leverage a good deal of your purchase since laundry equipment is easily financeable. And though there may not be a great deal of business there is likely some. The only way this recipe may not work is if the neighborhood has outgrown the need for a Laundromat. Check the demographics and make sure there is a market for the business.
So you want to be in the laundry business? Which one is for you?
Remember, don't be put through the ringer: have loads of fun with your laundry business!
|Helpful Resources To Assist In Selling And Buying California Businesses|
|Brad Steinberg, Business Broker: Laundromat Specialist
PWS is the leading laundromat broker in California. Since 1968 PWS has brokered over 2,500 laundromat sales. With over 90 employees dedicated to the coin laundry industry, PWS has 18 licensed agents, a 3 person in-house finance department, 10 service technicians and a 20 person parts department.
|Larry Larsen: Laundry Consulting, Brokerage, Insurance
I have over forty years of experience in the sales, ownership, management, and construction of coin laundries. He is a licensed broker active in the sale of coin laundries, a licensed insurance agent specializing in coin laundry insurance. Phone me at 714-630-9274 or 714-630-Wash.
|William F. Ziprick, Attorney: Legal Services For Buyers And Sellers
Through creative problem solving, attention to detail, accessibility, & understanding that unnecessary delay is often a deal killer, I work closely with my clients and other professionals to consistently achieve a high rate of closings. Office: 909-255-8353, Cell: 509-951-7230.
|Janet Carrera: Escrow & Bulk Sale Service - SF Bay Area
Redwood Escrow Services, Inc. is a full service, licensed independent escrow company. We are EAFC Fidelity bonded, fully insured & licensed with the Department of Corporations. Committed to offering our clients the most comprehensive variety of escrow services available. Phone Janet at 510-247-0741.
|Randall Barondess CBB, Business Brokerage Services - Central Coast
Experts at: Preparing Businesses For Sale, No-Cost Valuations and Lease Modifications. MaxOne Business, a REMAX ONE Company prepares small, mid-sized and large businesses for sale by confidentially packaging the business and providing guidance throughout the sales process.
|Steve Erlinger: Laundry Broker, Consultant - Southern California
I specialize in the laundry industry broker and consultant in Southern California. I assist buyers navigate the many facets of finding, evaluating, and operating a laundry business. I also help current laundry owners find additional stores, sell, evaluate an existing laundromat. Call 949-500-5893.
|Shalonda Chappel: Escrow & Bulk Sale Services - Southern California
Escrow services to brokers/agents, sellers, & buyers. Established 43 years. Extraordinary service. Experienced with handling difficult transactions. One stop for all your escrow needs: Bulk sales, lien searches, UCC searches, liquor license transfers, publishing & recording services. 951-808-3972.
|Elizabeth McGovern: Escrow Services - San Francisco Bay Area
McGovern Escrow Services, Inc., is a leading independent escrow company. We are a trusted partner with our clients, assisting them through the tangled bulk sale & liquor license transfer process. We provide attentive, quality & innovative customer service. Phone Elizabeth McGovern at 415-735-3645.
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