Adrian Roberts understands people who don’t like doing laundry. In fact, he used to be one of them.
“Our laundry would always pile up,” he said – not unusual in a family with two working parents and four children.
Today, Roberts is in the business of making that chore as painless as possible for others.
Roberts Laundry Service offers pickup and next-day delivery of laundry to homes and businesses.
Roberts grew up in Wichita, leaving to spend eight years in the Army, where he worked on helicopters.
He returned to work in the city’s aviation industry, but his most recent layoff in November of 2011 got him and his wife thinking.
“The back and forth wears on you,” he said. “We sat around the kitchen table and said, ‘What do we do now?’ ”
The answer was nearby in a pile of laundry. Roberts said he couldn’t find another business here devoted exclusively to picking up and delivering laundry.
He wasted little time getting started, opening in an industrial building near downtown two months later. The business does not have a retail storefront. Instead, there’s a small office in front and a space in back with seven pairs of washers and dryers, tables for ironing and sorting clothes, two hot water heaters, lots of hangers and bags, and a loading area.
Roberts washes each customer’s laundry individually, separating the items into white, dark and light-colored loads. He also offers stain treatment and pressing.
About 85 percent of his customers are residential, with the rest coming from small businesses. He serves Wichita and Bel Aire.
He said customers often test him before entrusting him with valuable items.
“We’ll get the kids’ clothes and the towels,” he said. “That’s how they try us out.”
So far, he said, the response has been good.
“We get a lot of customers who say they’ll never do laundry again.”
Roberts runs the business with the help of three part-time employees while his wife, Erika, continues to teach school. His goal was to cover expenses the first year, which he did, and make a profit during the second.
“It doesn’t move fast enough for me,” he said about the amount of business he handles. “It’s tough. It’s not so much doing the work, but getting people to use you on a regular basis.”