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"It's by far the number-one extra service for laundries," said Partyka."It's doing well." Partyka also notes that even people with washers and dryers at home are using self-service laundries for the sake of convenience.Looking for an extra service that will work is always on their mind."Another trend laundry owners have recognized is that customers prefer to visit laundromats with a more pleasant atmosphere.
Because newer laundries are bigger than in the past -- often 3,000 or 4,000 square feet -- overhead is higher, and owners are looking for ways to cover the cost.
These additional services demand little increase in overhead because the rent is already paid for.
Many laundry owners also employ attendants to keep an eye on the store and help customers use the equipment.
Laundromat Renaissance The coin-operated laundry industry has changed in response to several trends.
Other social phenomena, like the prevalence of two-income families, suggest that convenient services such as wash-and-fold will continue to grow in popularity as working parents have less time to attend to household chores like laundry.
According to a survey from the Coin Laundry Association, more than half of coin laundries offer wash-and-fold.The first is that, for most of us, meeting the demands of work and our personal lives leads to a time crunch -- there just aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we would like to.Laundry owners are capitalizing on this reality by offering their customers time-saving convenience in the form of wash-and-fold (drop-off service) and dry-cleaning service."But it's even more so now with tighter competition and utility bills growing.Everybody wants to squeeze as much money as possible out of their space."I have a big space, 6,000 square feet," she said, "and this will help pay for it."Paul Partyka, who edited American Coin-Op, a magazine devoted to self-service laundries, said Patel's approach is the norm."Trying to generate additional revenue per square foot has always been an issue," he said."The industry is now getting a facelift," said Brian Wallace, president and CEO of the Coin Laundry Association, a national association for self-service laundry owners."There's a trend toward coin laundries being more comfortable for the customer."Newer laundries have snack bars, a place to leave off and pick up dry cleaning and video games. Instead, customers use swipe cards that subtract the cost of the wash or dry, much like a phone card or debit card.The industry is what experts describe as a "mature market." Save for areas that are seeing high population growth, pretty much every neighborhood that needs a laundry has one -- or two or three -- that are competing vigorously.In some areas of the country, there are too many laundromats already. Many get into the business by purchasing an existing laundry and renovating it.