ROCKY HILL, Conn. — When opening a self-service laundry for the first time, many owners discover the challenge of multitasking. Nancy Sousa’s challenge is maintaining a successful business while dealing with being a seven-time cancer survivor.
The Town Line Laundromat, Rocky Hill, Conn., opened in July. About seven weeks prior to the opening, Sousa, diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, discovered that she had metastatic breast cancer in her bones.
Previously, the cancer had been confined to her breast and lymph nodes, and in each of the six cases she underwent surgery and treatment. Her battle now shifts from cure to management, as one would do with diabetes or kidney disease, she says. “I’m feeling fine. I go for treatment three times a month.”
LEARNING ON THE JOB
The store is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and Sousa, despite undergoing cancer treatment, is a regular. “I’m here daily. My mom gives me a split shift, and I use the time to get my treatments. On average, I’m [at the store] about 60 to 65 hours a week.”
Customers are greeted when they enter the fully attended store and are thanked on their way out. Interacting with customers has taught her an industry cornerstone: the importance of cleanliness. “I hear over and over again about how clean the store is. Customers want cleanliness, and bright and safe stores. I’m always talking with customers and mopping,” she jokes. “I’m a little crazy that way.”
Like other new owners, she has had her bouts of anxiety. “You always ask yourself questions. The numbers can look good, but you never know what to expect until the doors open. Stores can surprise; unknowns exist.
“I was scared. This was a huge investment. I basically cashed in my 401(K) and retirement funds for this.”
She has been pleased with her store’s early numbers, but admits there is still plenty of work that needs to be done. “People told me I need to be patient, which I don’t have an abundance of.”
A POSITIVE OUTLOOK
Balancing health and store concerns continues to be a challenge. Such a situation might have some strictly focusing on the present. Not Sousa.
“I’m moving forward. I’m dealing with a disease. Nobody has any guarantees in this world.”
Click here for Part 1 of this story.