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November 24, 2021

The Mat Brings Fresh Tech to Boulder Creek

These days, everything is “smart.” Smartphones. Smartwatches. How about a smart laundromat?

Behold The Mat in Boulder Creek, formerly the Village Wash. Run by third-generation laundromat owner Brandon Parker and his fiancé Erin Hexem, it’s the first smart laundromat in Boulder Creek, and one of only 10 in the country. How did Boulder Creek show up on the technological laundro-map with phasers set on fluff and fold? Parker said it was long past time. 

“This store has been here, and in my family, as a local business since 1974,” Parker said. 

In fact, he learned how to count quarters in the corner with his grandma, and was raised in the business of laundromat management. 

“We introduced the new machines in the beginning of October, and the response has been outstanding,” said Parker. 

Hexem notes that most laundromats are a coin-based enterprise, so folks need to cart around tons of quarters for their wash & dry cycles. Not at The Mat. They accept app payments, mobile payments, credit cards or cash.

In the age of Covid, Parker says, having reduced touchpoints in the store means a cleaner facility, and having multiple payment methods makes things easier for the consumer. The washers and dryers are Speed Queens, and until recently, the manufacturer was only running demonstration stores. Parker saw an opportunity to introduce a little tech to this bedroom community of Silicon Valley.

“We’re one of the first shops to do away with coins, and just rely on tech to get it done. It’s much faster—you can walk up to a machine and just start it with your phone,” Parker said. “People have gotten so used to using their phones with QR codes and apps that the transition is a natural one. Other laundromats have been hesitant to make the jump to smart machines, but we thought it was time.”

Parker’s background in biotech and cryptocurrency allowed him to blend his love of tech with his family’s passion for clean clothes.

“Five years ago, I came home from San Francisco, and I love it here. This is the perfect platform for Erin and me to start a business that has a real-world impact,” he said. “With a lot of tech companies, you don’t really feel like you’re making a difference in society. Here, with my family in our hometown, the laundromat is a window into the soul of the community. Regular people come in to do their chores, and to have a beautiful place to do that just lifts up the whole community.”

Hexem says that most customers are very open-minded about the technology, and they’ve received lots of compliments about the machines and the bright, renewed, crisp and clean facility. Parker says the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Even for people who don’t use the app (and aren’t interested in the points-based rewards that are available), the ability to swipe a credit or debit card for laundry is a game-changer.

“It’s so easy for people to do,” Parker said. “The idea that laundromats need to use coins for operations is silly and antiquated. It’s such an old industry, and it’s been coin-based for so long, that when people are introduced to the technology at The Mat, they’re stunned at the progress. They can’t believe that all laundromats aren’t like this one.”

For Hexem and Parker, they realized that customers using quarters during the Covid pandemic made even less sense. 

“There was a leap of faith as to whether the customers would make the transition, but we realized that over half of our customers are using the app, and we have over 100 people who have downloaded and are using the app,” Parker said. 

Hexem said that data culled from the machines encouraged them to change the hours of operation. 

“We found that some people really needed those later hours, so we now close at 9pm instead of 7pm,” said Parker. 

Add in two dedicated staff members (“laundry specialists,” according to Parker) who are there to assist customers, answer questions and sanitize touchpoint surfaces, and this tech-based store is running on a heavy-duty cycle.

In terms of pricing, the cost for consumers is the same as it was before the upgrade. 

“We have so many locals that have been coming here for years, and we wanted the place to be nicer, and keep the prices the same. We also have the rewards program which saves users money, and since the machines are so efficient, it takes less time and money to wash and dry a full load of laundry,” Parker said. 

Too busy to do your own laundry? The Mat also has a laundry drop wash and fold service that saves busy customers time, and at only $2 per pound, it’s a bargain. 

“The average person does eight hours of laundry per month, and that’s not counting families with multiple children,” Parker said. “They can spend two full days per month just on laundry, so the drop-off service here is a great way to get a few more hours of freedom for busy folks.” 

Parker and Hexem aren’t sure what the future of app-based laundromats looks like in the area. 

“We want to focus on this project first,” said Parker. “There is still a lot of data to be collected and testing to be done, but we’re still one of the first shops in the country, so we want to make sure we’re successful in this venture. We’re always open to moving ahead, so we’re looking at systems like solar power and rainwater capture options. With this platform as a business, there’s other technology available, but we want to focus on making this place epic.”

For Parker and Hexem, “epic” includes a band on Friday night in the adjoining lot, and an on-site taco truck Tuesday thru Friday to promote their “Cleaner, Faster, Funner” way of doing laundry.

Interested in learning more? Visit bouldercreeklaundry.com/services. 

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