How Laundrylux began

Laundrylux distributes Electrolux professional and Wascomat commercial laundry equipment in North America through its extensive distributor network.  Laundrylux offers PLUS (Professional Laundry Utility Service) and state-of-the-art commercial laundry and wetcleaning equipment for the coin laundry and on-premises laundry (OPL) markets, as well as financing and marketing support. Here’s how it all began…

How an accident at sea changed the coin laundry business

In the mid 1950s, a young man with an engineering background and experience in laundry equipment sales and service was hired to assess damage to the laundry equipment aboard the Swedish American Line’s M/S Stockholm after the ship collided with the Andrea Doria, near the Island of Nantucket. The young man’s name was Bernard Milch.

Bernard Milch (right) at the FactoryThis was Milch’s first introduction to the Swedish-made Wascator front-load stainless steel washers. He was  extremely impressed that the machines remained functional after the laundry area, which had been filled with sea water, was drained. He was intrigued by the simplicity of the European design and construction compared to products then on the market in the USA. Milch made inquiries to the Swedish company and eventually purchased a Wascator washer for testing and technical investigation. He was curious to see if it could be adapted for the growing coin laundry and institutional markets that he was selling to. He dismantled it, integrated a coin meter, and then reassembled it for the purpose of testing its design, components, durability, and wash results.

Milch’s testing confirmed his initial confidence in the Wascator machines. He was convinced that commercial front-load washers could revolutionize the industry. He knew they would provide superior wash results and use much less water and energy than the appliance top-loading washers that were being used in laundromats at the time. (There were some home-type front-loaders and front-load 25-lb. capacity washers which were being used to wash rugs, but they only washed and did not extract. A separate extractor had to be used for those machines.)

Milch obtained the sales and maLaundromat in Sweden, 1960rketing rights for Wascator machines in North America and, since he ate lunch at the “Automat” and liked the sound of the name, decided to use the name Wascomat for marketing. He seized the opportunity and the industry was changed forever.

Despite the challenges in marketing a stainless steel commercial washer against cheaper appliance washers, Milch knew that Wascomat washers were a much smarter investment for the store owner. He understood that they were built for longer life, durability, lower utility costs, and to withstand the abuse of a commercial environment. Top-loaders were not designed for heavy use and overloading. He also knew customers would appreciate the larger capacity, better wash results, and reliability of the Wascomat front-loader. Milch understood that in a successful coin laundry the customer supplies the labor and the coin meter acts as the cash register – and his vision of fully automatic, self-service coin laundries equipped with commercial laundry equipment became a reality all across the U.S. and Canada. Wascomat soon became the standard of the industry for front-loading commercial washers.

First Wascomat Laundry in NYC 1960In 1960, the first of many all-Wascomat coin laundries opened in Manhattan. Once Wascomat had gained a substantial share of the self-service coin laundry market in North America, the Company expanded its sales efforts to hotels, motels, nursing homes, hospitals, and other on-premises laundry (OPL) operations such as the Alaskan pipeline and nuclear submarines. Wascomat developed joint marketing ventures with chemical/soap companies which enhanced its OPL marketing efforts. The message remained focused on Wascomat’s strengths – superior design features and engineering, dedication to customer service, and long-lasting products. The word was out, the message was clear, and the Company’s market share continued to grow.

Wascomat-equipped coin laundries are found in every population center across the USA, Canada, and Mexico. Many have Wascomat washers over 40 years old, still working in laundries today. It’s a true testament to Wascomat design and engineering and reflects the pioneering vision of Bernard Milch.

Electrolux, which purchased Wascator in 1973, credits Wascomat’s growth in North America to the extraordinary marketing efforts of Milch and his team. Bernard Milch was even honored by the King of Sweden in 1980 for his contribution to Swedish-American business when he was knighted with the “Nordstjerneorden,” the Order of the North Star.

Bernard Milch retired in 2007. His son Neal then took the reigns as CEO and renamed the company Laundrylux. Neal continues to believe in Bernard Milch’s vision and dream and he is determined to think “out of the box” everyday, just as Bernie did.

“My father was a marketing genius and industry pioneer,” states Neal Milch. “His enthusiasm, confidence, and vision for Wascomat inspire us all. We have dedicated employees who have worked for us for more than 40 years and are still committed to providing the best possible products and services. It’s because we all believe in what we do and in the products we sell.”

As a teenager, Neal Milch worked at the company over school breaks and summer vacations. He grew up learning every aspect of the business from his father.  Neal graduated from Stanford University and Columbia Law School and later went on to lead Electrolux’s global marketing department, based in Copenhagen, for two years. He rejoined the company in 2006 with significant plans for the organization’s growth and development.

“We are continuing my father’s tradition of innovation and excellence, striving to provide our customers and distributors with the highest level of products and services,” shares Neal. “We continue to seize every opportunity to lead the industry and our company into the future with state-of-the-art marketing and technology. It’s an exciting time for all of us at Laundrylux and the laundry industry.”

Laundrylux introduced the latest Electrolux Professional Line 5000 and Wascomat Generation 7 commercial laundry equipment at the Clean Show in 2013.  “We feel it’s important to continue to push forward with aggressive, targeted marketing and new product development. We see great opportunities ahead – and we have the capital, vision, and knowledge to seize those opportunities,” states Milch.

What began with an accident at sea and one man’s dream for the future has transformed into a business reality for many people across North America. It’s an amazing story and Laundrylux plans to keep adding chapters to that story for many years to come.

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