With no washer and dryer in his childhood home outside Daytona Beach, Florida, Chance Stone can remember accompanying his parents on trips to the local laundromat every Saturday. While a routine chore to some, he enjoyed spending these quality hours with his family each week. Stone couldn’t have known back then that a laundromat just a short drive away — that didn’t even exist yet — would tie his future family together decades later.
Driven to serve
While growing up in Volusia County, a beach community fueled by NASCAR® and a primarily blue-collar work force, Stone developed a passion to serve others. So much so, that a year after graduating high school in 1987 he enlisted in the United States Army.
“I’ve always been a self-starter, and living in a very service-driven community made me want to do good for people,” says Stone. “I have an entrepreneurial spirit and an innate desire to succeed.”
After serving in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, Army veteran Stone returned home, but not for long. He enrolled in the University of Florida (UF) and earned a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management with hopes of one day working for NASCAR. Although that dream didn’t ultimately pan out, his newly discovered interest in small business led him to open a surf shop in the panhandle.
“I liked the idea that with the right fundamentals in place you can create a business and make it thrive,” Stone explains. He managed the store with his wife, Janine, whom he met at UF. “The surf shop gave us a hands-on understanding of what it takes to run a successful small business.”
Surf shop to Tropical Laundry
After three years, the couple eventually moved back to the Daytona Beach area to start a family. To make ends meet while providing for two children, Janine worked nights – often until midnight – as a waitress while Stone spent his days as a territory manager for a food distribution service.
“Something had to change so we could spend more time together,” Stone continues. “Having owned a successful small business in the past, we put our heads together to figure out what we could do. We took a lot of drives to study businesses that seemed to be thriving.”
Those drives — and further research on the benefits of owning a laundromat — eventually led the Stones to purchase an existing, yet neglected, 2,800 square foot coin laundry in a nearby Holly Hill shopping center. Although the investment in Tropical Laundry was intended to allow for family togetherness while replacing Janine’s previous income, Stone quickly realized he was spending that precious time and money repairing and maintaining the “prehistoric” Wascomat® machines that dated back to 1996.
“For two years, I was spending up to 20 hours a week fixing machines, ordering and waiting on parts, on top of my day job,” recounts Stone. “We were not running the business as efficiently as we could have been. Customers and employees were aggravated, and I finally got to a point where I was fed up too. We realized that one of the keys to owning a profitable laundromat is having quality equipment that you can rely on.”
Industry-leading savings and support
Tired of maintaining his unreliable machines, Stone began researching various equipment manufacturers and seeking out better-quality products that would allow him to be more hands-off and to make his business more profitable. He remained unimpressed – and unsatisfied – until information in a trade magazine led him to Huebsch® and the authorized distributor in his region, Commercial Laundries of West Florida.
“I learned about the savings potential when comparing Huebsch products side-by-side with competitors,” says Stone. “Another selling point was that Huebsch is backed by Alliance Laundry Systems, the global leader in commercial laundry, and that the premium equipment and quality parts are made in the U.S.A.”
Over the next eight months, Stone worked with Dennis Leto, a regional sales manager with Commercial Laundries of West Florida, on a plan to upgrade the store’s current equipment mix – machine for machine – almost entirely to new Huebsch products.
Meanwhile, Stone partnered with Huebsch Financial Services to draw up finance solutions tailored to his unique business goals and family’s needs.
“I knew what I wanted in terms of a financial program and quote scenario, and I can’t say enough good things about Huebsch Financial Services,” explains Stone. “I commend Huebsch Financial Services for seeing the vision my wife and I had for the store and for being the bridge that allowed us to make it happen.”
Their dream to turn Tropical Laundry into a contemporary, profitable laundromat was realized in March 2014. After a month of renovations, the Stones reopened their laundromat for business with 65 new Huebsch machines – the majority of which are equipped with innovative Galaxy™ 600 controls. With advanced features that include time-of-day pricing, cycle modifiers and 24 customizable cycles, Stone says Galaxy 600 has allowed him to capture revenue that would have been lost otherwise.
“Certain customers want a higher water level and are willing to pay more for it. On the flip side, if customers want a lower water level and price point, that option is available too.”
Customers can choose between 29 washer-extractors ranging from 20- to 60-pounds to meet their washing needs. Additionally, 36 stacked dryers ranging from 30- to 50-pounds get customers in and out fast. Stone says they’ve noticed the difference in reliability and quality when compared to the store’s original machines.
“Throughout this entire process, other Huebsch store owners kept telling me about the durability of the dryers,” adds Stone. “Since the upgrade, we’ve had so many compliments from our patrons that equipment is so shiny, so new, so precise. It’s almost like they can’t believe we did this for them.”
Galaxy 600 capabilities allow Stone to continuously monitor machines to meet customer demands and maximize revenue, but he’s also boosting his bottom line simply because he made the decision to upgrade to Huebsch.
“I had heard and read about the water savings we could expect from upgrading, but there was nothing like opening that first utility bill and seeing the results with my own eyes,” Stone reveals. “It read $597 – nearly $1,900 less than what we were paying and represented 130,000 gallons of water saved.”
Stone has also quantified another benefit, and it’s priceless: the extra time he has to spend with his wife and two girls. He and Janine each dedicate six hours a week to the store, growing the wash-dry-fold business. Before the upgrade, the service accounted for 25 percent of the store's revenue in any given month, and they intend to grow that number by taking on commercial accounts.
“We couldn’t afford to take on more business before,” he says. “Our employees couldn’t handle it because machine maintenance and repair demanded so much of their time.”
Less time dealing with downtime and maintenance issues also means the Stones can focus more on a cause that’s been important to Tropical Laundry since it opened. They continue to serve two area churches and their overnight shelters by washing the linens and blankets for free.
“I truly believe customer service, sound money management and the desire to succeed can add up to something great,” explains Stone. “From the surf shop to the laundromat I have applied these same principles. Huebsch was the right partner to help our family transform Tropical Laundry while allowing us to improve our customer experience and grow our business.”