Darrel Stadel recently opened the West Plaza Green Laundry in his shopping center in Wickenburg, Ariz. As he did his initial research on the industry, he started thinking about turning the new venture into a green one. After all, he figured, green was only going to grow in popularity.
REDUCING WATER WOES
Being in Arizona, in the desert, people tend to be more water-conscious, Stadel believes. “Water is going to become a major problem in the future. In my location, water reclamation is more practical than, for example, in the Midwest, where water is more plentiful and cheaper,” he explains. With this in mind, he explored water reclamation for his new laundry.
“I know that water reclamation is coming in the future.” He talked with several water-reclamation companies, but wasn’t satisfied with what they had to say. “Some of the companies were only talking about reclaiming 50-55% of the water, and said reclaiming a larger amount wasn’t possible.”
Stadel found a company that offered a system designed to reclaim 75-80% of all the wash water. The water would be run through multiple filters, which purify it. Crystal-clear water is said to be the end result. He went for it.
Stadel is going to lease the water-reclamation equipment for a fee comparable to his solar lease package. As of press time, the water reclamation system had yet to be installed.
“I’m taking the company at its word.” One of his concerns dealt with detergents. “Companies say powdered detergents mess up reclamation systems. However, with this new system, powdered detergents are not supposed to have a great effect.” The good thing is that many of his customers are using liquid detergents. However, he has made it a goal to convince more customers to go the liquid route, just in case.
He believes the water-reclamation system will process about 14 gallons a minute. “I will need some water tanks to store about 1,000 gallons in order to meet my needs.” He will also need a pump to bring the water into the reclamation system.
When the system is installed, it will sit outside, probably requiring a 10-foot-by-12-foot space. “I may put the equipment inside a steel structure to avoid tampering or vandalism.” The company providing the system will handle maintenance.
If things don’t work out on the water end, reverting to a traditional laundry operation shouldn’t be a problem, he says. “This is only going to take up a parking space when I get it. Plus, the only additional expense is going to be the pump that pumps the water into the unit.”
One concern with water reclamation over the years is the fear that customers will be leery of the reclaimed product and bolt to new laundries.
When dealing with skeptical customers, the plan is to stress water purification, not water reclamation. “The water I’ve seen from this process is crystal clear. I fill a glass with [the reclaimed water], and then fill a glass with water from the tap. You won’t be able to tell the difference. If people are leery, I’ll ask them to show me [the difference between the reclaimed and tap water].
“No other laundry facility in Arizona has a water-reclamation unit, and there is only one other place in the state that has a solar heat exchanger.”
MORE TO OFFER
As if the solar panels, high-efficiency washers and dryers, heat exchangers, and water-reclamation system aren’t enough, Stadel utilizes high-efficiency fluorescent lights, tin on the windows, and extra insulation in the ceiling.
“We’ve had a number of customers come in here strictly because I’m green. Four or five people come in a week just to see my operation, even if they don’t have any laundry to do.”
Even though Stadel considers his competition to be weak, he isn’t about to become complacent in terms of attracting customers to his new business venture.
The bright, new facility has a variety of front-loader sizes, in addition to the top loaders. “We charge the same as the competition.” Customers can take advantage of drop-off drycleaning, professional laundry service, and drop-off laundry service. The drycleaning and laundry service is provided by a local drycleaner.
Other store features include a drive-up window for dropping off and picking up orders and free WiFi service. The attended store is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE
As you might imagine, Stadel is emphasizing the green aspect of his new laundry. “I’m doing big-time green marketing. I have ‘green’ in big letters with quotes on the front of my store. I have green business cards and green smocks for my attendants. I will win over people with my green feeling.”
In addition to his store, he has noticed the green trend taking hold in the community. “More residents are going solar out here. Five or six companies have solar panels.” Although he believes the local government has been a bit passive in terms of green activity, it has been trying to attract solar-production firms, he says. “I think many green businesses will emerge in this area in the future.”
Has his green laundry venture really affected his outlook on things? You might say so. He’s looking into the possibility of having solar panels provide air conditioning and heat at his shopping center. He may even utilize the solar panels to generate electricity, and then sell it to his tenants.
Click here for Part 1 of this story.