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We bought a zoo, not really we bought a laundromat!

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Have you seen that movie “We bought a zoo” it was with Matt Damon and Scarlett Johannsen. It is the story of a family who buy a dilapidated zoo and get it ready to open to the public, full disclosure I have never seen it. Yet the concept is very familiar to my husband and I as we have bought a locally loved but neglected laundromat.

I was looking for a business that would allow my husband to stay active after retirement, he comes from a long line of engineers, mechanics and do it yourselfers. I knew upon retirement this would mean a lot of projects around the house and I do not mean getting the new bathroom we desperately need or tearing out the poor old avocado tree that refuses to grow up. But fixing motors that are cool but do not go in anything or do anything but run. Or horrors upon horrors, stacks of fishing equipment that need fixing. It is not all that bad; I just had the idea if he stayed a bit busy with an income, the stacks of projects would be minimal. And the costs of pet projects could be defrayed with the income.

So we jumped in, we did plenty of due diligence. We went to every single laundromat in the area, surmised their equipment, prices and conditions of their stores. We then looked into all the information about the one we were purchasing, the equipment, surveilled the area, looked at the paperwork, finances, talked to a lawyer, CPA, bookkeeper, and talked with other laundromat owners. We then took a leap!

The owner was mostly forthcoming about information. We were forewarned laundromat ownership is one of secrecy concerning income, finances, and operations. This information is kept under lock and key. All the information I received was basic and after that I had to ask for every piece of information. To this day, we are not even sure how to lock the place properly before the scheduled lock time.

We were never given any training, but we are brave and we were up for it. The very first week, just two days in, two of the most popular washing machines broke, one trapping the clients’ clothes in the machine. The machines stay locked until their cycle is done whether correctly running or not. I was called to the store. I rushed there to see how I could help. I found the washing machine did finally unlock and the customer was able to take out their clothes. I turned off the machines to reset them per the employee (cleans and closes the place at night) and helped the customer to get their clothes in the dryer. They overloaded the first dryer, so we spread them out over two dryers. I was excited I could solve the problems!

Yet as I walking back to the office out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the dryers literally spewing out clothes, door was open and the dryer was throwing the clothes out, I raced over put the clothes in and shut the door. Walked away and it happened again it was comical, second time I realized the customer had put shoes in the dryer and the shoes were kicking the door open. The customer came back and I let them know either stand there and hold the door closed or take the shoes out, he stood there!

Washing machines were reset and we think they are fixed. Crisis not averted just delayed, the back store room is always wet. The previous owner had put small plastic crates on the floor to walk on instead of addressing the leaks. We paid them no mind we had enough to keep us occupied. About 3 days later we get a call there is a leak again this time in the middle of the store. I race up there with my grandson and there is a leak, there is water all over and it is hard to understand where it is coming from. We mop it up. We had an easy time mopping up there are at least 4 mops in the store room and I am not kidding hundreds of towels. They are everywhere folded and neatly stacked up, they are in boxes, and in stacks. And for the life of me I cannot understand why there is such a collection. We then turn off the row of machines we believe to be the culprit and call plumbers but it is now Saturday and no one will come out, they just about hang up when I say "laundromat."

We finally found a local company Any Time Plumbing, Amir saved us. He discovered it was not the machines at all, but the drains. Also causing the leaking in the back store room because the drains are backed up with gunk and coins. To get into the drains took almost 4 days as no snake would fit in them. He fixed them AND took care of us! We were panicking we were losing sales. He worked hard to get us back up and running and it was Christmas time. He got our drains fixed but we were not done learning about a laundromat care.

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