After outsourcing his linen processing for the last several years, Brandon Ahlgren, CERP, owner, Elite Events & Rentals, Tampa, Fla., who serves as ARA of Florida president, has decided to bring everything in-house.
“We have probably about 15,000 linens and have been washing anywhere from 150 to 200 linens a week on average. Sometimes we have 300 linens in a week. We were close to making the leap before COVID-19 and then we paused. We ordered all our equipment at the end of last year and finally got everything this past April,” he says.
A big step toward accomplishing this was finding a facility to handle all the equipment. “We are in an area that makes it hard to expand the warehouse space-wise. I ended up buying a 5,000-sq.-ft. facility for the laundry processing because we don’t have enough space under one roof. It’s a temporary plan for two years max, hopefully. We plan on putting everything under one roof when that day comes, but we’re not there yet,” he says.
Ahlgren did his due diligence before taking this step. He toured other facilities and talked with a lot of different rental operators.
“Being in the industry for 15 years this September and then also being a part of a Peer Advisory Group has been tremendously helpful. Every time I go on vacation, I stop and see a rental operation. I have been to so many and have picked up tips. I went to the folks in my Peer Advisory Group multiple times asking what they are using, how they are using it, what equipment, etc. It came down to what will work best for us. I reached out to my rep with Seitz, The Fresher Co. They have a guy on staff who’s been helpful in guiding me in the right direction. I also got with somebody who builds laundromats. He put together a layout for me. That is basically what we are doing. I wanted it to operate very similar but also within our means,” he says.
To start his laundry service, he purchased two 60-lb. washers, a 95-lb. dryer and a single iron with a 20-in. roller.
He also had natural gas installed for all his equipment. “We are in Florida and natural gas is not a real popular thing here. It is available and we found it. We went to the county, had them determine whether they could run it to our building. It took about eight weeks for that to get done. It will be a big cost savings. We have a water heater — a new type of water heater that has a built-in heater to heat things faster — a 119-gal. natural gas indoor water heater system. It should do the trick. If it doesn’t, we’ll be able to add on,” he says.
Ahlgren also had to buy “a trough to put behind the unit so all the water can flow and be filtered. We came up with an electrical and water plan so I could give that out to my electrician. That has been nice,” he says.
All in all, Ahlgren estimates that he has made an investment of about $130,000 with the washers, dryer, heaters and electrical work. “It could be a little more. This is not including the warehouse space,” he says.
Making this move has been trying, but Ahlgren says, “I feel like nowadays you’re almost ready for anything so you can’t be surprised by anything. If you take that perspective in life, you’re going to be so much happier. Besides the stress of ordering the equipment and then waiting so long for it to come in, the permitting part was challenging and then finding the licensed electrician and plumber to get the job done correctly was frustrating. It all takes time.”
He also knows he will need to add more staff. “We already have one or two people doing mostly linens. We will need to have a total of three running that facility and see if we need more as it goes. We have a tabletop manager who will oversee that area. That person will stay here. We probably will put a lead at the other facility,” he says.
Ahlgren is excited to be bringing everything in-house — complete with plenty of opportunities to expand his knowledge. “I would say that we are always learning something. I did learn that it takes a lot of money to do anything, but we are definitely getting a better understanding of how these machines work. We are learning how to run a linen facility, basically. We know there will be a lot more to learn,” he says.