CHICAGO — Ernie and Rose Mathes operate two card laundries in Tacoma, Wash., while Adrian Notaro runs a small store in Scottsdale, Ariz. Two seemingly different operations, yet they share a common trait: success with commercial accounts.
The Matheses opened their first store in 2006, and run 2,900- and 4,500-square-foot stores. They have accounts with doctors, dentists and nail salons, processing a lot of towels, along with some linen. During busy times, they handle about 1,000 pounds of commercial work a week, utilizing 60- and 80-pound washers.
Notaro opened his 1,200-square-foot store six years ago, and began seeking commercial work almost immediately. He has tackled a variety of goods, although he mostly deals with medical-related items (X-ray gowns, sheets from chiropractors, etc.). During a normal week, he processes 1,000-1,500 pounds of work, utilizing 40-pound washers, his largest machines.
These owners recently addressed a variety of topics pertaining to their commercial service.
Notaro’s prices vary, but range from $1 to $1.20 a pound. “Utilities are going up, and we are trying to get more for the work. It’s tough because some accounts think we are too high. It’s hard to go up because others are charging 65 cents a pound!”
“Our prices vary,” says Ernie. When the couple had an account from the Humane Society, they offered a weekly rate. “We charge prices comparable to our drop-off work ($1.19 a pound). But since we pick up the work, we can raise prices.”
“Walk-in customers are the top priority when it comes to using the machines,” says Rose. “There are always slow times in the morning and late times to do commercial work.” All of the commercial work is processed during the normal store hours, she adds.
Notaro also caters to walk-in clientele, although it’s hard to think this way at times when he realizes how much money is generated by a good commercial customer, he says. “However, you just don’t want to scare off any walk-in customers, plus we usually end up having a bit more time to work on the commercial orders.”
Now and then, you have a claim, Notaro says. “Sometimes it’s obvious that we didn’t cause the problem. But with good customers, I’ll replace $30 or $40 worth of sheets, but it’s tough when I know we weren’t at fault. But do I want the money or do I want to be right?”
Ernie says he has never had a claim. Instead, getting paid is often the toughest part of dealing with a client. “One customer has been with us for four years; I’ve heard every excuse!”
“We even rewashed an entire order for the same client after she complained,” Rose adds. Ernie says you can avoid problems by carefully examining the soiled items when they are brought in.
“The clients have found us,” Ernie says. “We have a good website and advertise. We even have a TV ad.”
Notaro says he attracts plenty of business from his Yellow Pages ad. “We also do well with a lot of word-of-mouth advertising. Clients recommend us to other clients. We get a lot of calls.
“Going door to door to solicit work is tough because people don’t want to be bothered or they have been quoted lower prices.”
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