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Business

June 5, 2010

Shop Talk: Clinton Plaza Laundry

Clinton Plaza Laundry 17 Clinton Plaza Drive, Oneonta, lower level of Clinton Plaza Owners: Phil and Mary Konstantine Established: Aug. 1, 2000 (since 1988) Employees: 2

Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Phil Konstantine, co-owner of Clinton Plaza Laundry in the lower level of Clinton Plaza in Oneonta.

How long have you lived in the area?

My wife is local. We've lived here for a long time. We have two children _ one in college and one in high school. We've lived in Oneonta since 1989.

Tell me about your business:

We are first and foremost a laundromat. Some people refer to it as a coin-op(erated) laundromat. We also offer dry cleaning _ drop-off, wash and fold service. We have a number of commercial accounts with various rentals and hotels. We offer the dry cleaning because it's a convenience for our customers. People will come in to do their laundry for the week, and it's easy to do everything at the same time.

We also copy keys, because long ago I operated a hardware store. When the opportunity came up to buy a key-cutting unit, we did it.

I primarily run the business, because my wife has a full-time job. My daughters, Jenna and Sophia, help here, too.

Describe a typical day in your business:

Hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, but I'm usually here at 6:30 a.m. to open the laundromat. Our service counter is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How did you get started in this line of work?

The way I got started was I needed something to do. There was an ad in the paper for a laundromat. It was a little classified ad with a phone number, and when I read it, I thought to myself, "Well there's something I haven't done before." I made a call, and in about 20 minutes, I had a laundromat.

We will have been open for 10 years Aug. 1. It's been a wonderful 10 years. We've met so many different people, and have made so many good friends here. I've watched children grow up. It's sometimes sad, because we do get a lot of students, but at one point they have to graduate and move away. You do get to be close to them. You'll never hear me say a bad thing about students. They're vital to our community and economy. I appreciate them.

What have you learned from your work?

A laundromat is kind of like the community watering hole. So many people come. We're a baby-sitting service, a residence placement service. It's so much more than a laundromat. We get an amazing cross-section of customers.

In practical terms, I've learned to fix many things. We've owned it for 10 years and have been improving it over those 10 years. Two weeks ago, we replaced our dryers. That improvement was part of an ongoing improvement that started the day we bought the place. It's been an evolution. When we bought this, it was mostly top-load washers, because 20 years ago they were popular. Now they're almost extinct. Part of the plan is to become more efficient.

What is the most challenging part of what you do?

My major complaint has nothing to do with the business. I love coming to work, but the part that's difficult is trying to get away. My wife sometimes refers to it as having milk cows, because you've got to always come back and take care of the business. We manage to get away, but it doesn't come easily. But it's just part of the business.

The most enjoyable?

I look forward to coming in every day because I know something new and exciting is going to happen.

Can you describe a memorable moment in your workplace?

I have a lot of stories. There's a story every day. Every day people come in. They all get a chapter in the book. Oneonta's got a lot of interesting people. I love it. I love hearing those stories. Here's a story for you: One day, a friend of mine brought in a gentleman who was down on his luck. His girlfriend had kicked him out of his apartment and it was a cold, rainy night. He was soaking wet. I was able to give him a complete change of clothing, including shoes and a jacket, because, being a laundromat, people leave things here all the time. I have so many other stories. There really needs to be a book.

What are some advantages of doing business in this area?

Oneonta is small enough where you can know all of your customers, and I know most of my customers by first name.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

I'm not looking to compare myself to anyone. We try to do the best we can. I try to run my business fairly, offer a quality service, and we try to keep things current. We're always asking "How can we make things better?"

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

If you don't like to fix and you don't like to clean, I don't recommend this business. When it comes to owning a business in general, there are always fundamentals you have to consider. You have to be willing to work hard and put the time in. If you're paying someone else to do it, it's not going to be as good as you would do it.

For more information about Shop Talk, call 432-1000, ext. 255, or e-mail community@thedailystar.com.

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