Construction on a modern, high-tech laundromat that will replace a vacant 7-Eleven on Gorman Avenue could begin as early as next week.
According to developer Bill Schwartz, owner of Virginia-based SuperSuds Management, the Laurel laundromat could open for business as early as October.
"This is not your typical laundromat," said Schwartz, who operates 23 SuperSuds laundromats between New Jersey and Southern Virginia. "It's high end. We have flat-screen televisions, kid areas, high-speed equipment and other modern technologies."
Schwartz, who began acquiring old laundromats and repurposing them in the 1990s, said his business model relies on the latest technology to offer his customers the quick and easiest laundromat experience.
"The new equipment makes a big difference. With our high-speed washers, the clothes virtually come out dry," Schwartz said. "That's a huge advantage. We can keep our prices low, which our customer base likes, and it gets them in and out of the store in half the time."
And even if your clothes aren't completely dry, you won't have to pay extra to use the dryers at SuperSuds, at least not immediately following the store's opening.
"We offer free dry at all our new stores. Depending on the market, in some cases we keep it on for good, as long as we can be competitive and still make our margins," Schwartz said.
Customers swipe a card instead of using coins or cash to pay for washing at SuperSuds. Schwartz said customers can use a credit card or place money on a SuperSuds card that acts as a debit card.
"The consumer likes that they don't have to haul in $20 in quarters," Schwartz said. "From our standpoint, it's huge because it eliminates any kind of theft or vandalism."
Schwartz said rates for the Laurel laundromat have not yet been determined, but he estimates they will begin at around $2.50 for each 20 pounds of wash.
The Laurel location will have approximately 36 washing machines, a parking lot with 19 spaces and will be open seven days a week between the hours of 6 a.m. to midnight, according to the site plan approved by the city's Planning Commission on May 14.
Planning Commission member Rick Wilson said SuperSuds "met the test" when presented at the meeting.
"Considering what was there before, it struck me as a reasonable use of that land and I'm happy to see investment happening in that space," Wilson said. "I don't know what the business model is but I got to believe there is a group of folks that will find that a useful amenity in the community."
One resident spoke against the laundromat at the meeting, according to the minutes. Monique Fleming, who lives near the proposed laundromat site, was concerned about people loitering in the parking lot and parking in front of her home.
The commission voted to amend the site plan, mandating the developer plant two maple trees and four azalea shrubs to provide a buffer. The site plan was approved by a unanimous vote, according to the minutes.
Schwartz said the company identified Laurel and the Gorman Avenue location as a potential site for a store sometime in February.
"We chose it because of the traffic count and the proximity to apartments. The majority of our customer base is apartment dwellers, so this site is very strategically located," Schwartz said.
According to Schwartz, the site is smaller than what the company would normally buy, but they went against their rule because of the quality of the location.
Typically, SuperSuds laundromats range from 3,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet. According to the site plan, the Laurel location will only be 2,735 square feet.
Schwartz said Laurel is also a strong market for the company because of its growing Hispanic population.
"It was a combination of the number of apartments and the growing Hispanic population in the city," Schwartz said. "Our employees are bilingual, and they are a great customer for us."
Schwartz said he believes the Laurel store will be a success among residents.
"We like the location very much, and think it will do very well," he said.