Wash Dry Fold

Laundromat on 31st Street, Astoria
Laundromat on 31st Street, Astoria

Detergents Check. Quarters Check. Fifty Shades Darker, Check. Add a bottle of water and a bag of chips to that and its off-to-the-Laundromat time. Once a fortnight, a New Yorker finds himself or herself checking off that list. It could be a different book though, but the destination is pretty much the same.

Its safe to say that most people living in New York cannot imagine their lives without Laundromats.  These coin operated laundry machine could be a friend or a foe, a peaceful time away from the exhausting fast paced life of the city or just a mundane task one has to perform. Whatever they may be, they do give every user a clean fresh smelling pile of clothes at the end of each meeting. But what if these Laundromats weren’t there? What if the laundry industry had taken a huge hit in recession and slumped just like a million other businesses around the world? All these questions make one wonder how do these Laundromats survive?

“You take home 70%. The rest is expenses. But you have to be smart to keep your profits high.” says 62 year old Christo Nikas, a talkative Greek customer at Laundromat on Astoria Boulevard. Nikas ran his own laundry business for 27 years before deciding to open a quaint Greek restaurant in the same neighborhood.

According to the experienced Greek, laundry business is easy money. ‘Be honest, treat your customers well and they will always come to you.” He adds with a warm smile. “ I used to always have coffee and donuts for my customers. Never missed a day.”

However, there is more to this 65-year-old industry than honesty and good salesmanship. Hygiene also seems to be an important factor in generating a reasonable income. “If anyone feels the place is dirty they will not wash there. Nobody wants bacteria in there clothes. You could even get skin infection. The cleaner, the more customers, I’d say.” Marianna Sanchez declares. Sanchez is a regular at the SudZone Laundromat on 34th Avenue and says she has never been disappointed.

A recent study of the industry showed there are over 35000 Laundromats across US, generating nearly $5 billion in annual gross revenue. According to Entreprenuer.com you can expect to pay between $200,000 and $500,000 to purchase or build a laundry. Occupying between 1,000 to 4,000 square feet of rental space and running from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm seven days a week, these stores’ cash flow typically runs between $15,000 and $200,000 annually. The US recession has increased the percentage of people that rent their home, which has in turn increased the demand for these facilities.

Until now, one in three if us would be considering owing a laundry business. If the answer is yes then the risk of this business should also be exposed. High utility bills, unexpected events like power outages, machine maintenance costs, and calming dispute between customers all comes with the price. Another issue could be security implementation since laundry business is cash driven. Astoria is a very safe neighborhood; even then the owner has to handle a lot of cash, where in money-handling procedures may be applied, which is also a fixed cost.

“I’m very lucky my son is business student at Columbia. He handles revenue and expenses. But I still worry about having all that cash.” Louisiana Mee shares. Mee is the owner of Mee Laundromat on 38th Avenue.

Staying in step with the technological advancement, these operations have now found a way of keeping the facility air conditioned, which wasn’t a possibility earlier. Although there are only a handful of these in Astoria, you may find a lot of Laundromats with wending machines, coffee stands and also a couple who offer free Wi-Fi in the neighborhood. Some also have Plasma TVs and music stereos in the stores.

In Astoria, there is a Laundromat around every corner. How do they deal with competition? Maybe Nikas was right about being nice.

“It is all about developing personal terms. I know all my customers really well and always ask about their families. I also offer coffee and magazines.” Susan Ling of Won Won Laundry services reiterates. The facility is located on 36th Avenue with three other Laundromats within the same block. The key is to do all these right things at the right time, especially during peak hours, which are all day on weekends and mid-afternoons to early evenings during weekdays.

And this is how the Laundry business keeps inching forward.

Because clean clothes are also considered a necessity of life, the laundry industry is said to provide a basic health service. If you live in Astoria, you will never be deprived of this service. For sure!