Editor’s note: This Q&A was completed by business owner Mike Kirby.
Business name: Linnie B’s laundry (named after my grandmother, who would have turned 103 in 2019), formerly known as “Olivers Londorama”
Address: 116 E. State St., Pendleton
Hours of operation: 24 hours per day, seven days per week
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Phone number: 765-778-0409
Goods/services provided: Coin vended machines ranging from large 50-pound machines to single top load. We have 20 top load, 10 20-pound front load, six 50-pound front load washers and 28 30-pound dryers.
Owner(s): Mike and Lisa Kirby
Years in operation: Celebrating 60 years of continuous business in 2020. Started in 1960 by Odie and Lois Oliver. We have owned it for 15 years.
Number of employees: None
How did you get into the laundromat business?
We purchased the laundry in 2004 when it came up for auction. I was looking for downtown property to open our Performance Group of businesses (investment/retirement planning, tax and accounting, insurance services). Steve Bill (a local banker) and I were talking about locations when he told me the laundromat was coming up for auction. I wasn’t interested at first, but after some investigation and due diligence, I decided to take a look. Both 116 and 118 E. State St. were included in the auction, so the location and buildings worked out perfectly. When the auction was over, we were in the laundromat business, and in 2005 we purchased another one in New Castle.
What is the most interesting part of running a laundromat? Please explain.
I would say the most interesting thing about owning a laundromat is the people. We get customers from every walk of life, ranging from young folks home from college to 90-year-olds who have never owned their own washer and dryer! It’s common to see people on a weekly basis who have purchased new laundry equipment in the past couple of years and either their washer or dryer is broken… clearly they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Our weekly regular customers make it an event to come to the laundry. Many of them know each other because they have been coming here for years, and we make it a point to thank them for coming in — we now have free coffee, tea or hot chocolate. The customers are the reason we spent $140,000 in renovations in September.
What are some of the challenges involved with the business?
Challenges for a laundry are fairly simple. 1. A laundromat needs to be clean, and NOTHING comes to the laundry clean. It’s a constant challenge, because one minute it’s spotless and the next minute a lady walks in with burlap bags with moldy soybeans in them to wash for the Girl Scouts’ three-legged race (true story). 2. A laundromat needs to be safe. EVERYONE needs to know that they are going to be safe, and our real-time ADT camera system can be viewed 24 hours a day from my phone and computer. 3. The machines need to work. Now this is the tricky part — they are machines and they do break down after thousands of cycles. This is why we just updated with 36 new machines.
Has business in recent years been increasing, decreasing or staying about the same?
To be honest, with the machines breaking down and being out of order, we did lose customers. We had to decide if we wanted to stay in the business, and if so, it needed to be updated. In September we invested $140,000 and renovated the entire business. With new machines and a fresh look, we are seeing our customers coming back. Each day I see new fresh faces along with our regular customers who are very appreciative of our updates.
What is the outlook for the laundromat industry?
The laundry industry seems to be thriving, as long as the three challenges are managed. It’s not a business that makes a lot of money. Forty percent of every dollar goes to pay utilities; the rest pays for maintenance, insurance and new equipment. For us, it pays for the real estate.
Many people have faced losing something, such as a sock, during the laundry process. Do you often find articles of clothing or other things customers have accidentally left behind? What’s the most interesting thing you’ve found?
Yes, socks do escape on a weekly basis, and sometimes folks have washed, dried and folded entire loads only to walk out without them. We have found wedding rings, wallets, coins, $100 dollar bills, drivers license, credit cards, earrings, dog tags and anything else that might fit in a pocket.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
On behalf of our family we want to thank everyone who has used Linnie B’s laundry, and we welcome anyone who wants to try us out.