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How self-service businesses are handling COVID-19

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Posted at 4:42 PM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 20:52:56-05

HELENA — The COVID-19 pandemic has played a factor in everyone’s daily life for the better part of a year. Businesses, big and small, have been forced to shut down temporarily or even indefinitely, but self-service businesses like laundromats have taken a different path over the last nine months.

With fewer employees to pay, and a business model that effectively runs itself, what changes have they had to make? For Jeanie Warden of Rodney Street Laundry, it means early mornings full of cleaning.

“I'm here at 5:45 [a.m.] and I'm deep cleaning everything. Every surface that I can think of,” said Warden. “Then throughout the day, we come in and just sanitize.”

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For Richard Garrett, owner of Enterprise Clean and Coin, ensuring the safety of his employees and patrons is now at the forefront.

“Most people are real good about masks, but not all,” said Garrett. ”We've had to ask several times for people to please mask up.”

The self-service business model of people being able to clean their clothes comes with some drawbacks for laundromat owners operating amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. With laundromats being open early in the morning and closing well after it gets dark, there’s no telling who’s come into the building and touched what.

Warden said it’s a complete crapshoot, and they just have to do the best that they can to make sure everything is sanitized.

“That anxiety of how do you keep something that clean? How do you ensure that, you know, the virus isn't going to be hurting yourself, as a business owner,” said Warden. "People that come in, they need laundromats. They need these businesses to stay open and utilize them or else, you know, nobody wants to have dirty clothes. Everybody wants clean clothes and a place to do it. So try to figure that out. So we just cleaned an amazing, insane amount.”

Garrett said as of right now business at his laundromat is actually up. Which he believes is due in part to people wanting to ensure their home isn't contaminated with the virus.

“Our coin business has actually been significantly up,” said Garrett. “Some of that may be people paying attention and trying to keep their, you know, contamination at home down."

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