The Center for Family Business recognized Nancy
Maloney ’95, owner of Maloney’s Coin Laundry of Indiana, as an outstanding
entrepreneur on September 19, 2014.
Mrs. Maloney and her daughter, Nancy Andromalos, were
invited by John Lipinski to speak in his small business management class
about their entrepreneurial story. Also
present was Robert Camp, dean of the Eberly College of Business and Information Technology,
and Ellen Ruddock, director of the Center for Family Business (CFB).
Maloney has owned and operated Maloney’s Coin Laundry, located
at 34 S. 11th Street, with her late husband, Joseph, and children
since 1962. The Maloneys opened the
coin laundry as a way to make a living after Mr. Maloney was laid off from
R&P Mining Co. in 1961. While the family had considered other business
options, they ultimately decided the coin laundry was the right choice.
Mr. Maloney assumed the role of general contractor to save
the family money during construction. The Maloneys replaced their large backyard
garden with their new laundry facility. Though
they believed in their business, they still had a “Plan B” worked into the
construction. If the laundry failed, they wanted the space to be easily
converted into rentable office spaces.
They soon realized that without a general contractor they
could not borrow money from the bank. Instead, they had help from a friend,
used their son’s college fund, and used their house as collateral to get the
money they needed. They also had to work with a Pittsburgh supplier to obtain training
on using their new laundry equipment.
On April 1, 1962, Maloney’s Coin Laundry was open for
business with 20 washers, eight dryers, and six dry cleaning machines. The coin-operated dry cleaning machines had been suggested to them by their supplier
because they were novel at the time. These machines were later taken out due to the health hazards they
The first year was a challenge for the Maloneys as they
learned to minimize costs by not hiring extra employees. From fixing the
machines, to greeting customers, to cleaning, every family member had a job to
do. The Maloneys prided them selves on “selling cleanliness,” which meant that
they would clean every machine every evening.
“When we make our last payment,” Mrs. Maloney would say, “we
will hire a janitor.” And they did.
The Maloneys learned that focusing on customer service and
attentiveness would put them ahead of other coin laundries in the area. With
their laundry facility literally in their backyard, the proximity to their
business was a blessing and a curse because customers always knew they were
home and available. It was not unusual to have a customer knock on the door at
3:00 a.m. with a problem that required Mr. Maloney to get up and fix. While it may
have been inconvenient working 24/7, their attentiveness made their business a
“No customers; no bread and butter,” Mr. Maloney would often
say, and his words rang true. They started their business to make a living and,
without their loyal customers, they wouldn’t be able to eat. They discovered
through their customers that the most effective advertising was through word of
mouth. They kept their reputation up by
always giving customers the benefit of the doubt and trusting them. Mrs. Maloney
would sit and talk with her customers, much like she continues to do now, and
makes them feel at home.
Before word of mouth had made its impact, the Maloneys were
afraid they would end in failure, like 70 to 80 percent of most small
businesses do in their first year.
“It was pretty scary at times,” said Mrs. Maloney. “Until
word of mouth gets around, you still have a mortgage.”
On April 1, 2014, exactly 52 years later, Mrs. Maloney sold
the coin laundry. She decided to sell the laundry rather than pass it on to her
children or extended family because she said they all already have good jobs,
and running a successful business is not an easy task. Still, she had a hard
time letting the business her family built go.
“Investors don’t see the 50 plus years of blood, sweat, and
tears,” said Mrs. Maloney. “It’s almost like selling your home. It has value to
you, but the truth is the dollar value is based on what it’s made of.”
Mrs. Maloney felt that she got a fair price for her business
and is pleased with its new ownership. The new owner added Wi-Fi and a website,
but Mrs. Maloney continues to go visit it every day to make sure the business
is running smoothly and to talk with customers, especially students.
To the aspiring entrepreneurs present at the interview, the
Maloney’s story was motivating.
“It’s inspiring to see other people start their own business
and succeed,” said Jessica Pawelczyk, an international business senior. “It
makes me think that if I believe in myself and work hard, I can be successful
and achieve my own dream.”