Speed Queen branded launderettes are already becoming a familiar sight in many European countries, thanks to an investor programme run by Alliance Laundry Systems, the world largest commercial laundry manufacturer. June saw the opening of the first one in the UK in Ilford, East London, owned by Tharmalingam Senthuran, known locally as Senthu. From the time that he first filled in his on-line application form the whole project has been managed by Armstrong Commercial Laundry Systems who sell Alliance equipment in the UK, with territory manager Simon Rawle taking charge.
The new launderette, in a busy parade of shops alongside the A12 close to Gants Hill underground station looks clean, modern and attractive. It is not attended, so no service washes are offered, but there is a telephone number prominently displayed in case anyone needs help – but so far Senthu tells us this has not been needed. It is open from 9.00am to 10.00pm daily and is opened and closed by the shift staff from a nearby convenience store, also owned by Senthu. The site is equipped with four 9kg and one 18kg washers and three stacked tumble dryers – giving six 13.6kg machines – and one 20.4kg dryer. Prices and machine instructions are very clearly and simply displayed and there is a detergent and softener dispenser. All the machines are built into the wall but all are accessible from behind via a staff only area for servicing and maintenance.
“Since we opened, the level of business has really exceeded my expectations”, Senthu told us. “Sometimes at weekends there are people queuing up for machines, and at least one local hotel has started to use the unit. This area is largely residential, with a lot of new flats being built, and I expect even more business come the winter with people wanting to dry their laundry.”
Senthu arrived in the UK from Sri Lanka in 2001, initially living in East Ham and then moving to Gants Hill where there is a large Sir Lanka community. The son of a businessman in Sri Lanka, Senthu now owns a string of retail premises in the area including a 24-hour convenience store, a take-away, a restaurant, an off-licence, a travel agent and a barbers and calls himself “a serial entrepreneur”! But this is his first venture into the launderette business, and he says that the help and advice he has received from Armstrong has been invaluable. “The whole project took more than a year, with various regulations having to be dealt with including change of use as the premises was previously an off-licence”, he said. “But Simon has been there every step of the way and nothing has been too much trouble, no matter what time of the day I called him, he always picked up and was able to help. Dealing with Armstrong has been a real pleasure.”
Tom Lowes, director of Armstrong, said “We are delighted to have been involved in the setting up of this, the UK’s first Speed Queen launderette and have been extremely impressed with Senthu’s thoroughness and commitment to the project. We are looking forward to more of these opening, replicating the success that the concept is having in Europe.”
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