While helping his friend start a small business, Joseph Koyithara saw an opportunity to be his own boss. He started with gas stations and convenience and liquor stores in Houston, and then set his sights on a new venture – laundry.
A software engineer by trade, Koyithara entered the laundry business on a whim when he came across the opportunity to purchase an existing chain of Houston-area laundromats. After doing some research and realizing laundromats are virtually recession-proof and a turn-key business venture, he and his partners decided it was the right time to add laundry to their investment portfolios.
A lesson learned
The purchased stores weren’t in the best condition, but Koyithara knew there would be value in remodeling the facilities. “I never wanted to operate a run-down store; I like to do things differently, better,” Koyithara said.
Koyithara thought there was no better time than the present to make an investment in remodeling his locations. He turned to an area distributor to purchase new equipment and get their recommendation for an architect. What should have been an exciting and prosperous time for Koyithara ended up being a lesson on the importance of partnering with a distributor who will be there to support an owner long after the equipment order has been placed.
“Redesigning the stores with our first distributor was a disaster,” Koyithara shared. “I accept some of the blame as I tried to manage the project remotely from New York, but I put my complete trust in the distributor and architect, thinking that they knew what needed to be done and would do it well.”
After the remodel budgets and timelines were far exceeded, Koyithara knew it was time for a change when he and his partners decided to open up a new store. The group turned to Houston-based Gulf States Laundry Machinery and Huebsch® laundry equipment for a fresh start.
Koyithara’s real estate holdings included a 12,000 square foot strip center in southwest Houston. The business partners had 4,000 square feet of space available in the already thriving center that included a gas station, convenience store and a liquor store, which they owned.
The combination was perfect: no longer did they need to pay rent to or deal with a landlord, the strip center was in a high-traffic area with ample parking and customers could visit the other stores while doing their laundry. Additionally, of the housing in the neighborhood, more than 40 percent are occupied by renters who may not have laundry equipment in their unit or home.
With the location set, Koyithara gave Gulf States Laundry Machinery the opportunity to show how the company could help make his “West Airport Washateria” dream a reality. After visiting the Gulf States office and meeting Gulf States Sales Manager Jack Hunt and Huebsch Regional Sales Manager Joe Purbaugh, Koyithara’s search for a knowledgeable laundry distributor and manufacturer partner was over.
“Given the difficulties I had with distributors in the past, I was much more involved in the design and building process for the new Washateria,” Koyithara noted. “The relationship with Gulf States was more of a partnership; I ran the equipment mix plans past them before construction started and they checked in during the build-out; it was so much easier and more efficient than my previous experiences.”
Koyithara opened the doors of West Airport Washateria in February 2014. The store is bright, clean and features state-of-the-art Huebsch washer-extractors and tumble dryers.
West Airport Washateria’s 32 Huebsch washer-extractors range from 20- to 80-pound capacities and feature Galaxy™ 600 controls, water-saving eBoost™ technology and 200 G-Force extraction. The store’s varying equipment mix provides customers with several options and also gives Koyithara the opportunity to command higher vend prices through larger capacity machines.
Additionally, the control system’s “Extra Wash” and “Extra Rinse” cycle modifiers provide Koyithara the flexibility to boost store profits and provide customers with more wash options. “In the limited time we’ve been open, many customers have used these modifiers and are very happy with the wash results,” Koyithara added.
The washer-extractors’ high extraction speed removes more water from the load, providing customers with shorter dry times in the Galaxy 600 equipped Huebsch 30- and 45-pound stacked tumble dryers. The speed and efficiency of West Airport Washateria’s equipment makes it possible for a higher number of customer turns per day and more revenue.
In addition to the revenue provided from the laundry operation, Koyithara is using his business savvy to create additional opportunities by sub-leasing small offices within the store to professional service businesses that his customers can use while doing their laundry.
“Right now, we have a gentleman that provides financial and tax services, and I hope to soon add a hair salon and nail spa,” Koyithara said. “Given the setbacks I experienced with my first stores, I’m ready to use the Galaxy features to the fullest to run as efficiently as possible while boosting my revenue.”
Although Koyithara’s entrance to the laundry business was not as smooth as he would have liked, by working with a quality distributor like Gulf States and manufacturer like Huebsch, he is ready to leverage his entrepreneurial skills and experience the benefits of running a successful store.