The complementary relationship between pumping gas and doing laundry may not be clear to some, but as of July 2014 it certainly is to Raj Patel. When searching for a profitable investment to fill the storefront next to his gas station and convenience store, he looked to the vended laundry industry. With just $500 to his family’s name when they immigrated to the United States, the bustling Tennessee intersection where Patel’s business is located is a testament to the success he has achieved – and what’s to come.
Journey to Murfreesboro, Tennessee
The Patel family immigrated to the United States from India in 1995 with hopes of finding a better life for themselves. Raj Patel was just 14 years old. After earning a living in California for one year, the family moved across the country to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and opened a gas station/convenience store that would serve as the family’s primary income.
“Everything we have since moving to the United States we have earned through hard work,” says Patel.
After seven years of work and saving their earnings, the family sold the store and moved 100 miles northwest to Murfreesboro yet remained invested in the industry they had come to know. They purchased and opened Marathon Discount Tobacco, an existing convenience store with eight drive-up gas pumps and an adjoining storefront. The family filled this space with a liquor store, which they also ran. When comparing the business in 2004 to 2014, Patel says the store’s surrounding area is unrecognizable – and that’s a good thing.
“There were few businesses here when we bought the store,” he says of the store’s location, just off of interstate 24. “Today we’re in the heart of Murfreesboro thanks to a new mall, hospital, stores, restaurants and office buildings.”
The commerce boom naturally brought more cars and customers to Marathon Discount Tobacco. Meanwhile Patel strived to keep a leg up on competition by attracting business to the adjacent liquor store. Unfortunately, after nearly a decade, the liquor store wasn’t bringing in the revenue it used to. Patel sought out a new, more profitable business venture that would better complement the convenience store while providing a necessary service to customers.
A New Business Venture
While searching for a new investment, Patel’s main criterion was a hands-off, profitable business that required few employees. Friends suggested he open a check cashing service or other franchise, but he wasn’t impressed with the options he found until Internet research led him to the benefits of investing in a vended laundromat. After comparing multiple equipment brands and machine features with quote scenarios, he soon partnered with his region’s authorized Huebsch® equipment distributor, Nashville-based National Laundry Equipment.
“I came to the conclusion that Huebsch machines are a better value than any others available,” says Patel. “And, by choosing Huebsch, I automatically receive customized support from its network of professionals.”
With the right partners in place, Patel was now determined to get his new business venture, Speed Coin Laundry, up and running as soon as possible. Always the self-starter, he worked with his distributor to put together a plan on the store’s layout, equipment mix, and capacities. Patel also worked with Huebsch Financial to fund his business loan while providing financial peace of mind and unparalleled laundry industry expertise.
“Working with Huebsch Financial was such an easy process and I would work with them again to help fund a future laundromat,” says Patel. “They’re easy to get a hold of, the paperwork is straightforward and most importantly the process was fast.”
Patel also hired a contractor to assist with a crucial step: installing a door to connect the laundromat to the convenience store from the inside. As the laundromat is often attended by convenience store employees, this allows them to go back and forth easily. It also allows customers to patronize the convenience store while they wait for their loads to wash and dry. Additionally, a restroom was installed, and aesthetics improvements were made including efficient LED lighting, new tile, and fresh paint.
“Speed Coin Laundry has a cohesive layout and design; it’s in a prime location and has great equipment,” notes J.D. Dixon, president of National Laundry Equipment. “All of these things allow customers to get in and out fast.”
Thanks largely in part to its Huebsch equipment, Patel believes Speed Coin Laundry helps customers do laundry faster than any competitor in town. In fact, this belief is also the reasoning behind the laundromat’s name.
Speedy Service Through Technology
The store’s 36 machines – 16 washer-extractors ranging from 20 to 80 pounds and ten stacked dryers ranging from 30 to 75 pounds – maximize the 1,600 square foot laundromat while providing room for customers to move about. It is attended by one part-time employee, and convenience store staff monitors the store at other times.
All of Speed Coin’s machines are equipped with Huebsch’s innovative Galaxy™ 600 control system. With features such as multi-level vend pricing, cycle modifiers, and time-of-day pricing, Patel can offer customers 24 wash and four drying options while earning maximum revenue and reducing utility usage. Additionally, e-Boost™ technology and an efficient 200 G-Force extraction speed remove maximum water from loads to ultimately shorten drying times and get customers in and out faster. With Galaxy, Patel also has the ability to program and monitor his laundry equipment from a PC or laptop for ultimate convenience.
“Huebsch equipment is made of high quality materials and has features that allow me and my customers to maximize our time and money,” says Patel.
Of the many diverse machine features, Patel says customers especially appreciate washer-extractors’ 200 G-Force extraction speed.
“Clothes are virtually dry before they’re even placed in the dryer,” he says. “This can cut a customers’ time in the store from one hour to 45 minutes, which also means reduced utilities.”
In addition to providing a variety of efficient cycle choices and durable equipment, Patel says another key to his success has been offering a loyalty card program. By paying with the store’s loyalty card, customers can earn future discounts. For example, for every twenty dollars spent on the loyalty card a customer receives a two dollar discount – giving them incentive to return.
“Since we’ve opened, we’ve been busy. We’ve developed a regular customer base.”
As he intended, the addition of Speed Coin Laundry to the convenience store has been beneficial in promoting both of Patel’s businesses. When cars pull up to pump gas, they learn about the laundromat for potential use in the future. Alternatively, laundromat customers are likely to venture into the convenience store and purchase snacks to enjoy while they wait – something that wasn’t as common when the liquor store filled the space.
“A snack purchase totaling a few dollars may not seem like much, but every little bit counts,” says Patel. “Those purchases that wouldn’t have been made otherwise do make a difference.”
Speed Coin Laundry hasn’t even been open for a year yet, but Patel is already dreaming of owning multiple stores someday. With reliable partners to assist him with every aspect of the process, he’s confident he’ll achieve this goal.
“I already have the ideas and support system – it’s only a matter of time,” he adds.