Laundry CPR, Art Jaeger Style
“Can I take an existing store that’s failing and make it work?” asked Art Jaeger prior to purchasing what is now Valencia Express Laundry, in Valencia, Calif. “Does a good operator really make a difference?” Jaeger, a successful multi-store owner and developer, ultimately decided to give it a go. Eleven months later — after a light renovation — the previously flailing laundry generates 50 percent more revenue, and for the first time, offers a growing drop-off wash/dry/fold service.
While there were an array of hurdles holding the laundry back, including mismanagement, unfriendly attendants, erratic operating hours, dim lighting and a lack of equipment maintenance, it had solid bones. It touted a CCI Laundry Card electronic payment system was equipped mostly with Continental high-speed laundry equipment, which Jaeger was happy about. “I felt the store was well done in materials use and it had Continental laundry equipment, which I’m very comfortable with,” he said. “But, it wasn’t finished properly, it wasn’t properly maintained, the customer service was extremely poor and there was absolutely no marketing — not even interior signage.”
It’s the Little Things that Make a Difference
Jaeger went to work. “The attendant who was there was a detriment to the store,” he said. “He was turning people off, scaring them off and moving them out.” The day after Jaeger signed for ownership, he fired that attendant. The store was then closed for five weeks for renovations.
Many of the improvements were simple. Jaeger replaced 144 florescent bulbs, each offering 1,100 lumens, with LED bulbs at 4,800 lumens each. He painted the black ceiling white and removed the exterior window tinting to bring in light. He also replaced a rear steel door with a glass storefront door. This better illuminated the laundry and allowed customers the option of entering or exiting through the front or back.
Jaeger brought in seating, which was nonexistent before. Twelve table benches, four of which fronted the bulkheads, were added along with electronics’ charging stations. He debuted free WIFI, flat-screen TVs with programming, and interior signage where there were none before. Unbelievably, according to Jaeger, the laundry didn’t even have a telephone.
Jaeger persisted — tidying the manager’s office, adding a surveillance camera and alarm system and reconfiguring the vending machines.
Adding & Relocating Continental Equipment
On the equipment side, he moved his big, 75-pound capacity Continental Dryers to the front of the store for gains in visibility, and added 20 Continental 20-pound capacity ExpressWash Washers. When he was done, Valencia Express Laundry showcased:
• (10) 22-pound capacity LG Commercial Washers
• (20) 20-pound capacity Continental ExpressWash Washers
• (10) 40-pound capacity Continental ExpressWash Washers
• (8) 55-pound capacity Continental G-Flex Washers
• (4) 75-pound capacity Continental PowerLoad Washers
• (11) 30-pound capacity, dual-pocket stack Continental Dryers
• (11) 45-pound capacity, dual-pocket stack Continental Dryers
• (4) 75-pound capacity Continental Dryers
Meanwhile, all machinery was thoroughly cleaned, maintained and repaired. “None of the lint trays or soap dishes had ever been cleaned before,” said Jaeger.
Finally, Jaeger brought experienced attendants into the laundry to train those who were newly hired. He also launched full-service, drop-off wash/dry/fold.
A Summer Opening
Valencia Express Laundry remained open during renovations, which were completed in June 2018.
Spreading the word about the new and improved store, Jaeger hit marketing hard. He and his daughter, Natalie, held a grand opening and utilized social media, signage, banners, promotions, direct mail and the Web to remarket the store and regain its reputation in the community.
It was the first time Jaeger had started a business in the hole. “I had developed all my other laundries from scratch, in a neutral position, where customers were excited about our entry into the market,” he said. “But I figured if at least broke even, I’d still benefit because I could run Laundry Butler for You, my residential laundry pickup and delivery service, out of the new laundry.”
Each month, sales improved at Valencia Express Laundry. And, as luck would have it, so did Jaeger’s newly established Laundry Butler for You residential service.
Ozone Differentiates Laundry
In January, striving to stand apart, Jaeger added ozone to all the store’s Continental washers. The washers were already key to shortening the wash/dry/fold process for customers to under an hour. Now, Jaeger harnessed their flexibility to add San-O3-Wash™ ozone injection, and with it, sanitization.
The ozone, which is injected into the cold water supply of each Continental washer, kills bacteria, viruses and superbugs in the wash, effectively sanitizing laundry. Additionally, ozone works to loosen fibers and break down and wash away soil and stains. In the end, ozone results in cleaner laundry and requires less hot water, which helps lower utility costs, according to Jaeger.
Ozone & ProfitPlus®
But, ozone also works as a marketing hook for drawing customers in and keeping them coming back. And Jaeger uses that hook in conjunction with the Continental washers’ ProfitPlus Controls. “It’s the most flexible control on the market today,” said Jaeger, “and it allows me to program every variable of the wash process.” ProfitPlus offers Superwash, Warm, Hot and Cold selections, plus the option of adding an extra wash, rinse or spin. “Every washer is sanitized all the time, but if customers want to add the power of ozone to their laundry, they can add an extra rinse that’s ozonated,” said Jaeger.
It’s another quarter for that extra, disinfecting rinse. “Prior to adding ozone, the extra rinse add-on was selected 8 percent of the time,” said Jaeger. “Now, with the ozone, it’s selected 24 percent of the time.”
To call out the ozone option, Jaeger plastered informational stickers directly on the washers.
Of course, the ozone isn’t reserved only for self-service customers. Getting more bang for his buck, Jaeger markets it for drop-off wash/dry/fold and his new Laundry Butler service. Both have grown considerably in revenue, as a result.
Nearly a year in, Jaeger has successfully rekindled the faltering laundry. “We broke even from the second month and started making money in September 2018,” he said. Today, self-service revenue is up 50 percent, vending is up 80 percent, and drop-off wash/dry/fold has steadily grown to contribute 8 percent of total revenue. “Now the business is paying the loan, rent and a full staff of employees and still making money,” said Jaeger, who seems to have answered his own question …
“Can a good operator make a difference?” The answer is yes!