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St. Louis laundromat owners see potential despite national predictions of decline

"People always have a need for laundry services no matter the economy or environment"
Credit: SLBJ

ST. LOUIS — Branden Unnerstall knew by the time he graduated high school that his future was in laundry.

The Spanish Lake native, who now lives in Alton, grew up working in his family-owned laundromat and enjoyed the intersection of customer service and business. Now 25 years old, Unnerstall is building the 11th location of his Best Wash laundromat chain in Florissant, at North New Florissant and Lindbergh Boulevard, as part of his plan to open two new locations every year. He also is eyeing an opportunity to franchise.

"All I know is laundry and the good Lord," said Unnerstall, who turned 26 on Easter Sunday.

Despite projections that the U.S. laundromat industry is on the decline over the next five years — revenue fell from $5.2 billion to $5 billion in 2020, according to market research firm IBISWorld — St. Louis operators and real estate investors see potential to clean up in the local market.

One investor is Chris Nasrallah of Nasrallah Global Real Estate Services. He opened his first laundromat, Double Bubble Coin Laundry, in St. Ann in February after struggling to find a tenant to fill a 3,500-square-foot vacancy at his Shoppes at St. Ann retail strip center at 10483 St Charles Rock Road. Nasrallah and his partner Mike Rizzo invested a little over $800,000 to build out the Double Bubble laundromat, a business plan that pre-dates COVID-19 but one Nasrallah said is basically "recession-proof."

"People always have a need for laundry services no matter the economy or environment," Nasrallah said. "It's a consistent cash flow, and the return on investment is very good."

He projects that he'll get his $800,000 investment back in two years, and also believes the laundromat is good business for his center's other tenants: a restaurant, mobile phone store and hair salon.

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