For long-time Elmira residents Wayne and Cheryl Lamers, their latest business endeavour happened almost by accident.
One day last May they were driving through the Birdland Plaza on Oriole Parkway, when they saw that the old Tawco Cleaners was closed. The couple, who had always dreamed of starting their own business, took it as a sign.
“We were looking for an opportunity for quite a while already, and we just by chance happened to drive through the mall,” said Wayne. “That’s really when we started looking seriously at the laundromat opportunity and started doing the homework and research, and asking ‘is this viable, will it work?’ and we kind of had to educate ourselves on the laundromat industry.”
Wayne, who works for Crystal Clear Water Centers in Waterloo, had some experience with laundromats, and when the couple saw the need in the community, they decided to jump on the opportunity. After some hefty negotiating with the landlord of the building and receiving a loan from the Wellington-Waterloo Community Futures Development Corporation, they were well on their way to owning their own business, and Scrubbles
Laundry and More was born.
The business will offer laundry services to the community through 18 brand-new stainless-steel high-efficiency washing machines, as well as 12 dryers. The largest machine can actually handle up to six traditional loads of laundry in one load, cutting down dramatically on the amount of time customers will spend doing their laundry.
The store includes a play area for children, a flat-screen television, free coffee and wifi internet access. The Lamers have also invested in a special sporting-equipment sanitizer that uses ozone to kill bacteria and take the stink out of hockey, football or firefighting gear – sure to be a popular commodity in the hockey-mad town of Elmira.
They also have a second component to the business called Scrubbles Pet Wash and Spa, which will be a completely self-serve pet washing area in the back of the laundromat with its own entrance. Patrons can come in and take their time washing and grooming their dogs, and the Lamers have also hired a professional groomer with more than 10 years experience to perform on-site grooming as well.
The store is 1,950 square feet in total, with about 1,300 dedicated to the Laundromat facilities in the front and about 500 square feet for the spa in the back. While Cheryl intends to handle most of the day-to-day operations herself, the couple says that they also intend to hire one or two part-time attendants as well.
“We really feel that even though in the past laundromats were mostly unattended, it would be better if it was attended because people might need help, and customer service is big for sure,” said Wayne.
For now Wayne intends to keep his job with Crystal Clear Water Systems in Waterloo where he has worked for many years, but Cheryl has quit her 25-year career as a hairdresser to work on their business full time.
“I knew I couldn’t do hair for the rest of my life. Even though I loved it, it’s tough. So I’ve gone from doing people’s hair to folding towels,” she laughed.
Wayne says that the costs of doing laundry at Scrubbles will be very competitive given the prices of water and hydro, especially with the new smart-meter technology in Ontario. Prices will range from $3 for a regular washer, up to $9 for the largest machine.
The spa will also vary from $15 to $20, and there is no time limit on how long owners can work on their pets.
The doors haven’t even opened yet and customers are already streaming in.
“We’ve already had people come in and say ‘oh you’re not open yet?’ Someone even came with a full laundry basket,” said Cheryl.
The Lamers had hoped to be open for business on Saturday (today), but delays in construction and renovations have postponed the opening until next week.
“There was more than we had originally anticipated,” said Wayne of the extensive renovations involved. “We literally had to replace all the drains, all the sanitation, all of the copper pipes and the water supply lines had to be completely re-done. There are completely new gas lines and electrical as well. So literally everything was stripped out.
“There were some things we didn’t count on that added costs and time.”
Despite the delays, the couple is excited and optimistic about what the future holds for Scrubbles. They see the business as a 20-year investment, and hope their son Brandon and daughter Kayla can help with the business whenever possible.
“Who knows where it’ll go,” said Cheryl. “Maybe we can expand the pet part to another location. This is long term for us, and then we can pack up and retire back home in Nova Scotia. We hope it’s a long term part of the community.”