How to start a laundromat in a small town on a budget


Starting a laundromat involves a lot of up front expenses, unless you do it the Idea Friendly Way

A faded sign says, "Wash-o-mat coin-op laundry". Painted figures of a family are carrying their basket, soap and bleach and are followed by a frisky dog.

Wash-o-mat sign from the small town of Clovis, New Mexico. CC by chames richalds


Lots of small towns have no self-service laundry facilities, so it’s a smart business to start. It also adds a valuable service and amenity to build your community.

Laundromats are notoriously expensive to get started, and rural businesses have to start with the minimum startup expenses.

The Idea Friendly Method was designed for these small towns and small business realities. An Idea Friendly approach to starting a self-service laundry place in a small town would be to:

Build connections to find what you need without spending any more than you have to at first.

Take small steps and experiment with extra services cheaply to find which ones people use.


Here’s what Building Connections could look like:

  • Often, hotels and motels offer a laundry area, maybe just one washer and dryer pair. See if you can build on that.
  • Or, ask churches if they have laundry capability and could open it further to the public even during limited hours.
  • Deb Brown told me about a Chicago sports bar that offered laundry in the back room.

Ask around for other groups or people in town who might be good partners.

Here are some extra services to experiment with by Taking Small Steps:

  • Reader Emily Karsjens Perry mentioned 24 hour vending machines and exercise equipment. (If your Idea Friendly mind went straight to asking around to find donated or thrifted exercise equipment, 5 bonus points!)
  • Sheila Scarborough mentioned the combination businesses Frama Coffee at Tumbleweed Laundry formerly in Marfa, TX. (Idea Friendly version: single serve coffee machine?)
  • Deb Brown said another laundromat in Thomasville, NC, was near a bingo parlor. Deb said you often saw folks waiting on laundry who would fill their time by crossing the parking lot to play bingo. (Idea Friendly question: could you try a pop-up laundry, maybe in an empty building near an attraction like bingo?)

What ideas would you throw in the wash?

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About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.


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