If you build it, they will come... 09 May 2018

A new laundry and drycleaning operation in Bristol has been a long time in planning but the husband and wife team behind Laundra have finally realised their ambitions. Jean Anderson met with the pair, along with a number of industry specialists who have helped them on their journey.

(Above) Laundra’s drop-off shop located in the busy Clifton Down shopping centre in Bristol.

Laundra will be a new name to many of us but it is one you can expect to hear a lot more of in the future. 

It’s been a long time coming, but after years of careful planning and research, former banker Jay Peiris and his wife Anne have launched their ambitious new operation in Bristol. The set up includes a well-located central processing unit with a shop, backed up by a shop run by Anne and a separate drop-off shop in the busy Clifton Down shopping centre. That makes up the £500,000 phase one investment, with two more phases of the project on the cards when the time is right. 

The Peiris’ opened their first drycleaners in Bristol some nine years ago and knew from early on that there was scope for a much more extensive operation. Peiris said: “This place (the central processing centre) has been in the making for nearly eight years. “When we opened the first shop we knew this was what we wanted to do it was just about taking that big step.

Timing wise we wanted to make sure we had something more rather than just the central processing unit so that’s why we opened the shops in the shopping centre.” Work in earnest began about 18 months ago and a year ago Peiris left his banking job with Lloyds. 

Peiris, 38, has been fortunate to find a lot of support from established industry names willing to give him valuable help and advice, and who travelled a long way to join Peiris for his meeting with Laundry & Cleaning Today. Among the experts Peiris worked with were Jimmy Holt of Parrisianne, Ejaz Osmani of White Rose Laundry, Mark Reynolds of Spot Business Systems (unable to attend), Tabish Aiman of Tex-ID, laundry consultant Jonathan Brooks, engineer Jamie Mumford and many more. Aiman takes up the story: “Jay’s been very bold and said ‘the market needs someone of a larger size and with flexibility’. What’s unique about the set up is that it is a true central processing unit. It does drycleaning, wetcleaning, standard washing, garment finishing and flatwork.” 

Aiman has worked closely with Peiris since they got together at White Rose in West London when the family visited that operation as part of their research. “Jay and I just hit it off early on and became mates. 

I have been doing a little bit of business consulting, a sounding board, an encyclopaedia, a recommender of suppliers and services. Sometimes accurate, sometimes off the mark!” The arrival of the processing centre has been a long haul – it took six months to find the premises easily accessed from a slip road next to the busy A403 which links the motorway network with the city and the docks at Avonmouth.

(Above) Just some of the industry experts that provided Peiris will help and support with his set up of Laundra. From left: Jimmy Holt of Parrisianne, Ejaz Osmani of White Rose Laundry, Laundra founder Jay Peiris, accountant Rick Martignetti, Tabish Aiman of Tex-ID, and engineer Jamie Mumford from JM Laundry Services.

Aiman said: “One thing that was very fortunate being in Bristol was that the price of the land was lower than London so Jay was able to get more space and occupy it in a phased way, so we have only occupied two thirds of the square footage with one third still available to expand into.” 

Another six months were spent negotiating the lease and then came another very big step. The building, a former Speedy Hire heavy plant centre, was in terrible condition. Said Holt: “My reaction when I first saw it was ‘walk away now!” 

But he came round as the building was transformed. Anne had a similar reaction: “Jay didn’t show me the site until he signed the lease. When I saw it, I was ‘what have we got ourselves into’! It was terrible. “But Jay has been putting a lot of hours into it – day and night. “We wanted to make it clean and fresh – that’s the audience we want – and that’s what we’ve done.” Today the spacious building has a new roof and is white, fresh and clean, as Anne says, and equipped with an impressive range of machinery which will ensure they can fulfil their plans. 

There is a stylish reception area with Laundra’s branding, which will be a drive-in drop off and collection point, and the front of the building has the same eye-catching look, as do the shops. They wanted to be able to invite potential clients in to see the operation and decide whether to use Laundra. It is certainly on course to attract that business. Aiman said: “Because it’s a start up Jay spent a lot of time focussing on branding, the logo, and a lot of time was spent on the name. 

He is investing heavily in the website which will be launching soon and has plans for a collection and delivery app. The creation and testing of the app has delayed the launch but it will go live with the rest of the operation. Peiris has also had some local callers from the massive employment area in which they are located. “I’m getting a few people knocking on the door asking ‘when are you opening’? “A waste collector came in yesterday and said ‘wow, this is going to be so convenient for me’. 

People can just pull in and drop off.” While work was under way on the building Peiris investigated how to equip it. Said Aiman: “He researched several suppliers for machinery, installation, IT and settled on Parrisianne for finishing equipment, Stahl for the laundry and drying equipment, Fulton for the boiler, Thermotex for tagging, Rampi for chemicals. The two drycleaning machines are one Union and one Böwe 12kg perc machines. Laundra is considering an AGS kiosk (from Parrisianne) for the drop-off shop and a Metalprogetti rail (from Jason Alexander at Renzacci) for the CPU, at a later stage. AGS supplied the water softening plant. 

Jamie Mumford, from JM Laundry Services, carried out the commissioning of the Stahl equipment, installed all the pipework insulation and will be the ongoing maintenance team for the site. Said Aiman: “It was important for Jay to have the plant running smoothly and rather than have an in-house engineer, he found outsourcing maintenance the way to go.” They were also helped by laundry consultant Jonathan Brooks of Vaughan Concept. “He was also a start-up and was so full of energy,” said Aiman, “Jay hired him to do the initial block planning and engineering calculations and things like that.” Brooks said: “The processing plant incorporates a washing and drying area, a drycleaning area, a substantial finishing section with shirt machines and a flatwork area. In addition to the processing equipment, the design also had to incorporate a full steam plant and the associated ancillaries of water tanks, softeners, pumps and a compressor.” 

He continued: “Vaughan Concept was also able to provide consultancy and drawing work on the mechanical and electrical requirements for the unit which the client was able to use to appoint installation contractors to fit out the premises. “It was a pleasure to work with Laundra Commercial Services and I am looking forward to assisting them further in their future plans for expansion.” They also ran the plans past Osmani whose many years of experience proved invaluable. Peiris said: “Probably because of my background I am analytical. I want to know what it does, how it does it. I’d call Tabish at 9pm and get all the answers I want. If he didn’t know the answer he would know someone who did. “Tabish and Ejaz are very informative and knowledgeable. 

That’s what I needed.” Peiris decided to go for top of the range Stahl washers and dryers and Sankosha finishing equipment from Parrisianne, which are not the usual choice for start-ups. Aiman was sceptical about the choice of Stahl but it has proved a hit. The company were very supportive and, after some negotiation, a heat exchanger was included in the deal. Peiris’s research indicated that it would make financial and practical sense despite the price difference with other brands. 

(Above) Inside Laundra’s central processing unit.

The Stahl equipment, also set up for wetcleaning, have also proved a personal hit, as Anne loves the efficiency of the machines. Peiris has also invested in other equipment like a secondhand Electrolux rotary ironer, a brand new Fagor washing machine bought at auction plus Miele and Union machines. Aiman said: “He spent a lot of money but he spent it in the right places and where we could get cost savings we’ve done it.” He adds: “We considered Metalproggetti for automated assembly but decided to make that phase two. “Our original plans were very, very ambitious and we scaled them back.” 

They had a soft launch of the business in late February, using the machinery to process work from the Clifton Down shop. The drop-off shop opens soon in the prosperous Bristol suburb and then the next big challenge will be building the collection and delivery side and potential contract clients. They will now be approaching potential targets. A large care home population in the area, the university, holiday lets and workwear for the industrial estate and the port of Bristol very close-by are all among the possibilities. “Then in a few years time we are going to try and expand in the south west – other big towns as well,” said Peiris. “The location of this place is really, really good. Bath is half an hour to 40 minutes, Taunton, the next big city, is 40 minutes away, and Cheltenham is 40 minutes. 

We are located very, very centrally, just off the motorway. But for the time being they will concentrate on Bristol with the collections and delivery service covering the BS postcode and a population of more than 400,000 people. Aiman said: “Bristol as a market has not been well served. “You have a university here, and a large corporate community, a large population, all of which have relied previously on small independent drycleaning retailers for their work and no notable contract sized laundries.” The other challenge is employing staff, which will be done in phases with an eventual aim of a 50-strong workforce. Employing laundry and drycleaning staff is a new departure for Peiris but he said: “I have the right people around me to help with recruiting and training.” 

He hopes to encourage staff to benefit from training and a career structure they may not have considered before. He and Anne have been delighted by the support they have got from the laundry and drycleaning community. “We have been able to learn about best practice from quite a few different cleaners before reaching this stage.” He has invitations still outstanding from Home & Dry in Chichester, and London based Bellevue Cleaners and Sylvia Grey among others. 

In Clifton Down shopping centre, Anne is seeing a steady trade and is enjoying the excellent location right next to the entrance to the busiest Sainsbury’s of its type in the country. She said of the whole project: “It is challenging but we are very grateful for the support we have received.” Finally, the next generation of the Peiris family is showing signs of a future with the company. 

Five-year-old Jesse is a big fan of washing machines and likes to fall asleep watching YouTube videos of how washing machines work. Four-year-old Chantelle, however, has yet to show an interest!

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