Cathie Anderson

Insights into the people who shape Sacramento’s business landscape

Cathie Anderson: Sacramento Laundry loads up on customers, thanks to loan from Chase

07/08/2014 12:00 AM

07/08/2014 8:08 AM

Just two months after opening, Keith and Julia Pooler have doubled the number of customers for Sacramento Laundry Co. Inc., their 60,000-square-foot commercial laundry near North Natomas.

The increase in business is a real validation to the Poolers, who tried to get a loan for several years before JPMorgan Chase finally agreed to finance the project. Keith Pooler said: “I must have knocked on at least a dozen bankers’ doors going, ‘I have this great project. It won’t support the amount of money that we need to build this, but if we build it, we can definitely bring that business in and be able to support that loan.’”

The Poolers are nothing if not tenacious. When Keith lost his job as a buyer with now-defunct Bay Area retailer Emporium-Capwell, the couple took their retirement savings and invested in a coin-operated laundry in Sacramento. After 15 years, they owned six. To keep their laundromats busy, they picked up, washed and delivered towels and linens from salons, medical centers and other businesses. Then one day, the Red Lion asked the couple if they could do hotel linens.

The husband-and-wife team knew they would need a commercial facility to handle local hotel business. It was their first experience with rejection from bank after bank after bank. Unable get a loan, the couple charged up a significant amount of credit card debt to finance it themselves. Their small, commercial facility opened in 2009, and their big risk was soon rewarded when the Sacramento Hyatt Regency approached them about cleaning hotel linens.

Almost since the day the 7,000-square-foot facility was completed, Keith Pooler said, the couple wanted to expand. They sold their coin-operated laundries, paid off the credit card debt and started trawling for bank financing. When Chase came along, the Poolers already had plans for the laundry of their dreams.

Now completed, the multimillion-dollar facility involved major renovations to an existing warehouse building. They had to rip up the concrete floor to upgrade the sewer, electrical and gas. They installed commercial ironers, folders and plenty of other equipment. The $2 million, automated tunnel washer scrubs up about 4,000 pounds of linen an hour, compared with the roughly 18 pounds that residential washers will do in each load. Instructions for each customer’s preferences are programmed into the washer with each load, so that detergent, bleach and brighteners are added automatically.

To cut costs, Pooler said, a great deal of thought was given to recycling or reusing at every stage. For instance, the tunnel washer uses about a half a pound of water per pound of linen washed, compared with 3 gallons per pound in a traditional washer. They also installed a 12,000-gallon, three-tier underground sump to reclaim water from the tunnel washer.

Sacramento Laundry employs roughly 120 workers at the new plant, three times the employment at their smaller facility, Pooler said. With space to expand and add additional washers, they are always looking for new hires. In the Poolers’ world, profitability depends on increasing volume.

“We want to grow into 50-80 hotel properties,” Pooler said. “Right now, we’re doing about 45,000 pounds of linen a day, and we’re hoping to be able to grow into 150,000 pounds a day. That will be a real substantial growth rate in a short period of time, if everything goes right.”

Beutler ready to hire

If you need a job, want to learn and will show up for work on time each day, Beutler Air Conditioning & Plumbing service manager Neil Chapman suggests you go to the company’s website and fill out an online application.

As the number of schools offering certificates in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning has dwindled, Beutler and other companies have struggled to find trained applicants. Since many companies offer the training, you would think they would have no problem finding enough HVAC service and/or installation technicians.

That hasn’t been the case, despite starting salaries of $30,000 to $45,000 annually. Let’s be clear, Sacramento-based Beutler pays people with little or no experience to spend a year or two learning the HVAC trade. The company also provides medical, dental, vision and prescription plans; paid vacation; and a 401(k). A company vehicle and cellphone come with certain positions.

“If you stay here,” Chapman said, “you can make significantly north of $100,000 as a journeyman.”

Yet, Chapman says, he still has to scour the region for applicants who can pass drug tests, criminal background checks or driving record inquiries. And then, there are the occasional hires whose lack of so-called “soft skills” – reliability, communication skills, leadership, sense of optimism – end up costing Beutler lots of cold hard cash. The company invests in training, Chapman said, but some trainees show up late or don’t apply themselves to learning how to do the job right.

Think you fit the bill for Beutler? Apply at beutlerairconditioningandheating.com/.

 

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