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Recession doesn’t dampen laundromat business

November 12, 2010

by Nicholas Zarrelli

(Nicholas Zarrelli)

The newest laundromat in the Pine Hills area, Dirty Harry’s Uptown Laundromat, opened in nearly the worst part of the recession. Even still, the business is doing quite well.

Because a laundromat had been in that same building in previous years, owners Bill McLaughlin and Elliott Rosen were optimistic about the location. Rosen and McLaughlin were familiar with the laundromat business, having opened Dirty Harry’s Downtown Laundromat around five years ago at 57 Dove St. Once the business proved its worth, Rosen and McLaughlin wanted to open another one. And then they found the building at 1050 Madison Ave.

After spending some time searching for another location, Rosen and McLaughlin soon found the building on Madison Avenue. “We assumed there was a need for it since there was one there years ago,” said Rosen. The nearest laundromats to Dirty Harry’s are the Madison Coin Laundry at 784 Madison Ave. and the Playdium Laundrymat at 349 Ontario St., each about a half mile away from Dirty Harry’s.

Rosen and McLaughlin purchased the building out of foreclosure about four years ago, but had left it alone for a few years until they decided on what type of business they wanted to put there. The inside was in rough shape and needed a major renovation. The apartments upstairs were slummy, so the partners decided to construct two brand new ones above their business.

According to Rosen, the initial purchase of the infrastructure and the expenses of the reconstruction ran the

(Nicholas Zarrelli)

partners nearly $500,000. Though the other laundromat had proved successful, Rosen had second thoughts about the timing. “I was nervous about opening a business in the middle of a recession,” he said.

The purchase of the equipment ran McLaughlin and Rosen approximately $150,000. They decided to purchase all new, high quality machines and also a service agreement with a maintenance provider. Dirty Harry’s Uptown Laundromat has 24 small washing machines and three large ones. It also has three new larger dryers, six new double dryers, and six old double dryers. Though maintenance is not very frequent, problems still arise. Whether a customer jams a nickel in a quarter slot, or a gasket on a machine breaks, the maintenance crew repairs the problems immediately. Usually a customer will call Rosen to notify him if a machine is in need of repair, a part time employees notifies him.

Since the building had to be completely gutted, the process took about a year for the laundromat to open. However, the residents of the apartments upstairs were able to move in about six to eight months after. Rosen saidthey usually rent the upstairs apartments to graduate students, medical interns or young professionals in the area. The building is now also a part of the neighborhood watch program, which allows the police to arrest any trespassers on the property after the hours of operation.

The partners were able to hire one part time worker to complete the daily tasks the business requires. Jean Blue, a local resident, takes care of emptying the lint filters, washing the windows and floors, cleaning the machines and also emptying the garbage as needed. “I needed part time work, and this was convenient for me,” said Blue.

Customer Alison Martin, a graduate student at Russell Sage said she splits time doing her laundry between Dirty Harry’s Uptown Laundromat, and one by her home in Delmar. “I like using this one because it is so close to CVS and Price Chopper. I can do laundry and also get a lot of my grocery shopping done,” said Martin. “There’s always a machine open when I come, but the only set back for me is that it is not open for 24 hours.”

The hours of operation for the business are 6 a.m. to midnight. Rosen said the weekends are the busiest times at the Laundromats, but Sunday afternoon to evening is probably the best time to get laundry done.

Dirty Harry’s Uptown Laundromat brings in a gross profit of between $1,500 and $2,500 weekly, excluding the necessary expenses. The larger weekly profits predominantly come in when college is in session. “When the students come back, business picks up quite a bit,” Blue said.

The going rate for a load of laundry in the laundromat business limits how much they charge customers to use their machines, Rosen said. The least expensive rate is probably around probably $1.75, but most are $2.

Rosen is the one who takes care of the change in the laundromat. They predominantly recycle the quarters from the washers and dryers back into the coin changing machines. “One or two times a month we need to take the excess quarters to the bank as rolled change. But, it’s all money so I don’t mind too much,” said Rosen.

As with most Laundromat businesses, some clothing does wind up missing.  According to Rosen, sometimes people leave their laundry there unclaimed for weeks. After Dirty Harry’s Uptown Laundromat tries to identify the owners, otherwise the clothing is thrown out. Otherwise, the laundromat would be overwhelmed with unclaimed clothes.

“I don’t really have a clue why someone would leave their laundry behind, but we find laundry at both of our locations so it’s not just college kids.  Perhaps, they are visiting friends, do their laundry and forget to pick it up and find out when they arrive home some distance away.  If they call, we do our best to reunite them with their laundry, even if we have to rewash or dry it for them, said Rosen “We also find probably 10 loose socks every week that do not seem to have a mate.”

McLaughlin owns his own commercial real estate brokerage, W.F. McLaughlin & Company, Inc., and works along side of Rosen. Both have a combined 55 years of brokerage experience between them. They decided to enter into the Laundromat business for some extra income and so far, it has been a solid business investment for the both of them. -30-


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