The doors are open, and the washers are on!

Despite the complications of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown, Julia Willkins has completed her long awaited launderette as the latest addition to her Home & Dry business portfolio. And it was all thanks to a huge collaborative effort and cando approach by a team of industry experts.

The closure of the local Felpham Launderette in 2018 left the village, adjacent to Bognor Regis, without a self-service facility that had stood for the last 40 odd years. Willkins, owner of Sussex-based Home and Dry, located 15 miles away in Chichester, saw this as an opportunity to reinstate a launderette and also add receiving of drycleaning and flatwork. The received items being processed in the main factory.

Lease negotiations commenced in November 2019 with occupation on 1 March 2020. This presented several challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic had already shaken business confidence and government measures were being finalised. Willkins and her operations and marketing manager, James Glue, took these in their stride and decided to go ahead.

They retained Tabish Aiman from TexID, to project manage and Jonathan Brook from Vaughan Concepts to carry out the space planning and consultancy. Several suppliers were interviewed and after a short vetting period, WashCo were chosen. The decision was made on the basis of machine suitability and perhaps just as important, availability. WashCo were able to provide the six Primus washers ranging from 9kg up to a 18kg machines from stock as well as the six stacked Speed Queen 13kg dryers and single 22kg dryer.

This is when the COVID-19 effect really kicked in. Are installers available on short notice? How can we socially distance installers with close quarters working? Will the local sourced plumbing fittings and equipment be available? How can we coordinate the building trades so we minimise workers on site?

Under normal circumstances these are either non-issues or relatively straightforward to manage. Richard Catling, from WashCo, was able to arrange for Colin Marsh from Direct Steam Installations to carry out the install with a lower number of fitters as well as staggered start times. To avoid delays in shipments, Marsh’s team collected the gas water heater and softener from the north of England. The stainless steel water tank was fabricated by Direct Steam as all the metal fabricators had closed.

A last minute change to the specification by adding plinths to the washers presented a new issue. Primus did not have any in stock and their eastern European factory did not have any scheduled transport to the UK in the next few days. Having exhausted the possibility of getting them made in the UK, Catling arranged for the plinths to be brought over by dedicated transport, so the site works were not delayed.

Home and Dry had originally decided to purchase a centralised payment system. Unfortunately, the lead times on the system, normally four weeks, could not be guaranteed at the time of placing the order.

Glue, working with Catling, modified the purchase so the equipment all had coin operation and the central payment system, when it arrives, would provide contactless payment only. Given the essential travel restrictions Aiman relied heavily on email and telephony for site progress updates with Willkins and Glue attending site regularly to provide further updates.

Glue took over the role of project managing the construction elements and several changes were made due to lack of availability of building supplies. These include changing the door specification, the flooring, and supply of loose furniture. All of these adaptations did not impact the overall theme due to Glue’s persistence of not compromising. One of the elements that particularly stood out was the lack of availability of plaster for the walls. An online auction site had bags of plaster, which normally cost £6, going for a staggering £35 each! Glue rang around all the smaller local merchants and was able to source at standard pricing and he used his own DIY skills to take on the smaller tasks so they were completed on time. Rather than have a grand opening, which would have minimal impact during the lockdown, Glue decided on a social media campaign as well as an article in the local paper. Several shares of the digital posts got the message across without the fanfare of a traditional launch. James Glue, operations and marketing manager at Home and Dry, said: Blimey, I never thought my problem-solving skills attained during my time as a firefighter would come in so handy on a launderette install! Delighted that we have returned the place to its former glory with a very modern touch.”

Speaking of the installation James Holmes, sales director at WashCo: “I couldn’t be prouder of Richard and our team at Washco. In challenging circumstances, we went above and beyond, the order was placed pre-lockdown and would have been a huge task at the best of times to meet the dates, we delivered everything on time to meet Julia’s expectations. We really got behind the community spirit and can-do attitude enabling another fantastic community facility to open during this Covid-19 pandemic.”

Tabish Aiman, managing director at Tex ID: “If anyone had told me a year ago I would be project managing a site remotely and still get it done on time and to budget, I would have been very sceptical. This project really showed how our industry can rise to any occasion.”


Julia Willkins, owner at Home and Dry: “Fully respecting the extremely difficult trading period we are in, I feel that longer term, servicing our local community must continue. Challenging yes, but we must try, adapt, and succeed.”

Despite the complications of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown, Julia Willkins has completed her long awaited launderette as the latest addition to her Home & Dry business portfolio. And it was all thanks to a huge collaborative effort and cando approach by a team of industry experts.

The closure of the local Felpham Launderette in 2018 left the village, adjacent to Bognor Regis, without a self-service facility that had stood for the last 40 odd years. Willkins, owner of Sussex-based Home and Dry, located 15 miles away in Chichester, saw this as an opportunity to reinstate a launderette and also add receiving of drycleaning and flatwork. The received items being processed in the main factory.

Lease negotiations commenced in November 2019 with occupation on 1 March 2020. This presented several challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic had already shaken business confidence and government measures were being finalised. Willkins and her operations and marketing manager, James Glue, took these in their stride and decided to go ahead.

They retained Tabish Aiman from TexID, to project manage and Jonathan Brook from Vaughan Concepts to carry out the space planning and consultancy. Several suppliers were interviewed and after a short vetting period, WashCo were chosen. The decision was made on the basis of machine suitability and perhaps just as important, availability. WashCo were able to provide the six Primus washers ranging from 9kg up to a 18kg machines from stock as well as the six stacked Speed Queen 13kg dryers and single 22kg dryer.

This is when the COVID-19 effect really kicked in. Are installers available on short notice? How can we socially distance installers with close quarters working? Will the local sourced plumbing fittings and equipment be available? How can we coordinate the building trades so we minimise workers on site?

Under normal circumstances these are either non-issues or relatively straightforward to manage. Richard Catling, from WashCo, was able to arrange for Colin Marsh from Direct Steam Installations to carry out the install with a lower number of fitters as well as staggered start times. To avoid delays in shipments, Marsh’s team collected the gas water heater and softener from the north of England. The stainless steel water tank was fabricated by Direct Steam as all the metal fabricators had closed.

A last minute change to the specification by adding plinths to the washers presented a new issue. Primus did not have any in stock and their eastern European factory did not have any scheduled transport to the UK in the next few days. Having exhausted the possibility of getting them made in the UK, Catling arranged for the plinths to be brought over by dedicated transport, so the site works were not delayed.

Home and Dry had originally decided to purchase a centralised payment system. Unfortunately, the lead times on the system, normally four weeks, could not be guaranteed at the time of placing the order.

Glue, working with Catling, modified the purchase so the equipment all had coin operation and the central payment system, when it arrives, would provide contactless payment only. Given the essential travel restrictions Aiman relied heavily on email and telephony for site progress updates with Willkins and Glue attending site regularly to provide further updates.

Glue took over the role of project managing the construction elements and several changes were made due to lack of availability of building supplies. These include changing the door specification, the flooring, and supply of loose furniture. All of these adaptations did not impact the overall theme due to Glue’s persistence of not compromising. One of the elements that particularly stood out was the lack of availability of plaster for the walls. An online auction site had bags of plaster, which normally cost £6, going for a staggering £35 each! Glue rang around all the smaller local merchants and was able to source at standard pricing and he used his own DIY skills to take on the smaller tasks so they were completed on time. Rather than have a grand opening, which would have minimal impact during the lockdown, Glue decided on a social media campaign as well as an article in the local paper. Several shares of the digital posts got the message across without the fanfare of a traditional launch. James Glue, operations and marketing manager at Home and Dry, said: Blimey, I never thought my problem-solving skills attained during my time as a firefighter would come in so handy on a launderette install! Delighted that we have returned the place to its former glory with a very modern touch.”

Speaking of the installation James Holmes, sales director at WashCo: “I couldn’t be prouder of Richard and our team at Washco. In challenging circumstances, we went above and beyond, the order was placed pre-lockdown and would have been a huge task at the best of times to meet the dates, we delivered everything on time to meet Julia’s expectations. We really got behind the community spirit and can-do attitude enabling another fantastic community facility to open during this Covid-19 pandemic.”

Tabish Aiman, managing director at Tex ID: “If anyone had told me a year ago I would be project managing a site remotely and still get it done on time and to budget, I would have been very sceptical. This project really showed how our industry can rise to any occasion.”

Julia Willkins, owner at Home and Dry: “Fully respecting the extremely difficult trading period we are in, I feel that longer term, servicing our local community must continue. Challenging yes, but we must try, adapt, and succeed.”

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