CHICAGO — The general structure of chairs and tables typically found in coin laundries today really hasn’t changed much in recent years, but the palette of colors and textures that are available has become quite expansive, according to some manufacturers of such furnishings.
Caco Mfg. has been making Solomatic® fiberglass seating and folding tables for coin laundries since 1960.
“We’re still using the same molds that we have for 50 years,” says Caco Mfg. CEO Randall Chaffee. “It holds up, a good design. But the colors and the textures have certainly changed.”
Chaffee says his company can now create granite-type finishes commonly seen on countertops. “It used to be just solid color, gel coat. Anymore, I’d say 70-80% of our business is the granites.”
If someone is looking at the high-pressure laminate furniture made by High Mark Mfg. for their store, they’d better be prepared to spend some time studying color samples. The company has more than 500 different colors from which to choose.
“Laminates have come such a long way, we’ve got laminates that look like granite, stone, stressed,” says High Mark Mfg. President Peter Valconesi, whose company produces fiberglass and laminate furniture, both standard and custom in design. “You can get anything you want in a laminate these days.”
Beyond standard-size tables and benches, High Mark makes custom furniture ranging from folding tables to wrap-around bulkheads. It will soon begin distributing stainless steel folding tables in response to market demand.
“They’re trying to match the equipment with the tables by going stainless and stainless, or they’re going to our laminate,” Valconesi says of his laundry customers. “We provide a lot of other products for the stores, such as bulkheads, countertops and shelving units, then they’ll match the tables to that stuff.”
RJ Papalini is celebrating its 50th year of manufacturing furniture for drycleaners, coin laundries, gas stations and mini-marts. Its product offerings include tables, chairs and benches, both standard and custom in design.
The company is accustomed to seeing coin-ops utilize bright color schemes to attract customers, but President/CEO Richard Pennington says he is seeing slight changes in that trend.
“Depending on which geographical area you’re talking about, the owners still want to have bright colors and really stand out,” he says. “In places that are not quite as economically challenged, they’re looking at softer colors, browns and earth tones.”
Where once they may have slapped a coat of white paint on the walls and been done, some laundry owners are going to great lengths to create a comfortable environment.
“A lot of these new Laundromats, they’re even at the point where they’re hiring decorators to come in and help them choose their colors and choose the space,” Chaffee says.
But any time spent discussing accents, balance, or motif will be a waste of time if the furniture doesn’t stand up to the rigors of laundry life.
“It’s function first,” Chaffee says. “They have to have tables there for their patrons to fold clothes on. They have to have an easy and durable break area for them to sit down.
“It has to be tough,” he continues. “Laundromat customers are tough customers, especially in unattended stores. There’s very little that will hold up as well as fiberglass.”
A coin laundry owner may be tempted to purchase mass-market chairs or tables from a retail outlet or a home improvement store, but it’s really only a short-term solution.
“We see it all the time, but two or three years later, they come back to us because that stuff just doesn’t hold up,” Chaffee says, adding that you have to “put the right kind of furniture in there or it disintegrates.”
“If you buy that stuff and put it in your Laundromat, it’s not designed for a Laundromat,” Valconesi says. “It’s gonna last you six months, then you’re going to buy in again.”
“The old adage is ‘You get what you pay for,’ and spending a few extra dollars now is going to definitely pay off in the long run,” says Pennington.