This article is the latest in a series of profiles of successful Dexter laundromats and their owners. Like other small retail businesses, the laundromat industry has always attracted interesting and diverse owner-operators—each with a different backstory and reason for entering the business. In recent years, though, the industry has changed a lot. Whereas in the past many laundromats were classic ‘mom and pop’ operations, today’s ranks of new owners tend to include a high percentage of business professionals who are focused on optimizing operations for maximum return on investment. Here we profile the ultimate industry professional: retired commercial laundry specialist, Bryan Maxwell, who is following his own best practices shared with the countless laundromat owners he has worked with over the years.
The Consummate Laundromat Industry Professional
Bryan Maxwell is well-known within the U.S. commercial laundry industry sales world. He got his start in 1988 working for leading west coast distributor Western State Design. After a successful 30+ year career as a top sales producer, during which he served as a leader and mentor for legions of industry sales professionals and clients, Maxwell retired. Well, sort of. He retired from his corporate role at WSD but is now actively managing his vended laundry business, Vallejo Wash N Dry, acquired in 2019.
Given Maxwell’s breadth of industry knowledge and experience, it’s no surprise his laundromat business is prospering. He is ‘practicing what he preached’ all those years as a professional commercial laundry specialist:
- After research and due diligence, he acquired a run-down 2400 sq. ft. store “with good bones and a loyal following” he knew he could improve, in a densely populated area.
- He renovated the space to improve its appearance, making it clean, bright and safe, including the following:
- Interior facelift: he replaced everything from floor to ceiling, including lights. Among other updates, he painted the interior walls a pleasing off-white and installed elegant granite countertops for folding. He also updated and improved the restroom. Subsequently, he also replaced the floor.
- He completely retooled his commercial laundry equipment which involved:
- Installing a mix of new state-of-the-art Dexter Laundry machines with an emphasis on large capacity washers and enough dryers to more than match the washer capacity. Maxwell has a long history with Dexter washers and dryers and considers them the best in the industry. “They’re extremely reliable and are a great solution. At WSD, Dexter machines were the cornerstone of our recommended best practices for coin op laundry clients,” he explained.
- Making the decision to offer coinless machine operation—in addition to coin— implementing DexterPay which has been a big hit with customers.
- He invested in customer service and marketing to attract and retain customers by:
- Hiring excellent full-time attendants
- Engaging a marketing specialist to help promote the business using the website, social media, and local advertising
Running a Laundromat is not Without its Challenges
The process of updating the laundromat wasn’t entirely clear sailing. Maxwell says he made a mistake with the floor and has to redo it. “Laundromat floors are difficult, and I’m still trying to decide what I’m going to do to improve on this one,” he added with a note of frustration.
As for other regrets, Maxwell said next time around he would charge for use of DexterPay. “Customers love it so much, they wouldn’t go back to coins even if I were to add a small fee,” he explained.
Excellent Full-Time Attendants are Key
When asked about the key to his success, here’s what Maxwell had to say:
“I’m blessed with a very good full time staff. They do a great job keeping the laundry clean and taking care of customer problems,” he explained. “Good staff is much more important than I realized when I was working for WSD: when my store gets busy, it’s shocking how quickly it gets dirty. Trash quickly accumulates on the floor. Combine that with inevitable water leaks due to user error—thank goodness for the Dexter Emergency Stop Button—the place can start to look bad. My staff makes sure that never happens,” he continued.
“Also a good staff allows you to have a great/clean restroom because they clean it often and monitor who can use it. By the way, nice restrooms for the customers will grow the business. Having a clean, well-equipped restroom enhances the experience and inspires confidence in the entire facility, leading to positive-word-of-mouth and repeat business,” Maxwell concluded.
Commercial Laundry Equipment Mix
Maxwell installed the following Dexter commercial washers and dryers:
- (9) Dexter T-300 20 lb. washers
- (11) Dexter T-400 30 lb. washers
- (4) Dexter T-600 40 lb. washers
- (6) Dexter T-900 60 lb. washers
- (4) Dexter T-1200 80 lb. washers
- (8) Dexter 50 lb. stack dryers with reversing baskets
All the Dexter machines feature attractive stainless steel fronts and chrome doors. The large capacity washers and the reversing dryers are very popular with customers as they handle big bulky items with aplomb.
As Maxwell remarked, “Customers may not notice the reversing basket at first use but when they are drying sheets, blankets and comforters and they don’t roll up into a “blanket burrito,” they are hooked forever. Dexter reversing stack dryers give my customers one more reason to be loyal.”
Additional equipment includes two change machines and three vending machines: “one snack, one big soap, and one small soap.”
“The vending machine profits are earmarked for my grandkids’ education,” Maxwell explained. “They’re toddlers now, but hopefully, they will help grandpa with the machines as they get older,” he added.
Additional Insider Notes
Maxwell lives about 15 minutes from the laundry. He spends about 20 hours a week on the business including being on site 3-4 times a week, running related errands, and working from home.
He continues to work with Western State Design, relying on his former employer to meet his occasional parts and service maintenance needs, as well as to supply any needed new equipment. Maxwell describes his current relationship with WSD’s customer service: “They have some really good people. I liked working with them but I like them ever better as a customer! They go out of their way to be helpful and are excellent at communicating the status of my requests.”
Asked to reflect and comment on the contrast between his former and current professional lives, Maxwell explains that his goal remains essentially the same: to provide his customers with a superior solution embodying many years of established best practices. Laundromat customers need a safe, convenient, welcoming space to do their laundry as painlessly and efficiently as possible. Laundromat owners who best meet that need will attract and retain customers for the long-run. Clearly, Maxwell knows what he’s talking about.
To learn how WSD best practices and solutions can benefit your laundromat business, contact a WSD Laundry Specialist today.
Vallejo Wash N Dry 4300 Sonoma Blvd #764 Vallejo, CA 94589 707-652-2593 vallejowashndry.com