Even if you have your own washing machine and clothes dryer at home, there may be times when taking dirty clothes, pet bedding and other items to a laundromat is simply more convenient. And Lower Saucon Township residents and others who live along or near the Rt. 378 corridor now have another option for doing just that.
Saucon Valley Laundromat, which features the latest in commercial washing machines and dryers, officially opened its doors Sunday.
Owner Kyle Behmlander, 32, said the opening was months in the making, in part because the dry cleaning business that previously occupied the space had to be dismantled before he and his father could begin renovating it. Several local dry cleaners closed during the Covid pandemic when the demand for dry cleaning services plummeted.
A Southern Lehigh alumnus and former gym teacher, Behmlander’s career path was also impacted by the pandemic.
He recalled that time several years ago, when it became difficult to teach physical education to his students at an Allentown charter school and he and his wife were preparing to welcome their first child. Around the same time his father decided to retire, and Behmlander made the decision to change careers by taking over ownership of two local laundromat-car wash businesses he owned.
Stepping away from his businesses has been a process for Steve Behmlander, who likes to stay busy and was there to help his son at his new laundromat in Lower Saucon Township Monday.
After he signed a 15-year lease for the space in September, Kyle said his father served as “the brains” for mechanical renovations that were necessary, and continues to help him on a regular basis.
Steve Behmlander’s philosophy has always been to do “a little bit every day,” Kyle said. “Don’t worry about everything at once.”
“We did everything ourselves in here, except the sliding door and the floor,” he added proudly.
The end result of all the hard work by father and son is a gleaming space with touchscreen, American-made Speed Queen washers and dryers that represent the latest in laundromat technology.
All of the machines can be operated with the free Speed Queen app, which gives customers the opportunity to save money on doing laundry by earning points.
As an added incentive, Behmlander offers an introductory $5 credit just for downloading the app. Users earn one point for every $1 spent and receive a $5 bonus credit when they accumulate 50 points and when they load $50 onto the app.
Payment with tokens–which may be purchased with cash at the laundromat–is also available, but Behmlander said many customers are finding the app to be a convenient alternative.
For example, he said the app notifies customers when their wash or dry cycles are complete, which also helps with turnover. Plus, customers can see which machines are in use in the app.
Saucon Valley Laundromat customers also earn double points on Wednesdays and Thursdays, which are typically the slowest days for laundromats.
Having previously taken over both Broadway Car Wash and Laundromat at 1031 Broadway in Fountain Hill and Star of Bethlehem Car Wash and Laundry at 631 Long Street in Bethlehem from his dad, Saucon Valley Laundromat is the third Bethlehem area laundromat owned and operated by Behmlander.
One reason he said he was attracted to the Rt. 378 location is because natural gas and public water were available, and the water is high-quality, being supplied by Bethlehem’s distribution system.
There is also abundant parking in the shopping center parking lot, Behmlander said, and the promise of foot traffic from nearby businesses like Maxx Fitness and Dollar Tree was appealing.
Aside from the laundromat he owns on Broadway, there also aren’t many other places to wash clothes in the immediate area, he noted.
Neither of his other laundromats has the cutting edge equipment Saucon Valley Laundromat features, but Behmlander said he has been making upgrades to them and wants to install the same technology at his Fountain Hill location within the next five years. The Fountain Hill and Bethlehem locations are open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, while Saucon Valley laundromat is open 24 hours a day.
Behmlander lives in Salisbury Township, so he is able to play an active role in running the businesses. The fact that he lives nearby has also allowed him to get to know his customers and better understand their needs.
“You can’t be a fly-by-night laundromat guy,” he said, noting that his goal for Saucon Valley Laundromat is for it to be a welcoming space where everyone feels safe.
All three of his laundromats are monitored by security systems, and in the case of the Saucon Valley Laundromat the Lower Saucon Township Police also regularly patrol the parking lot.
Behmlander said free wifi will soon be available to Saucon Valley customers, who he hopes will enjoy the technology upgrades and other features he believes help set his business apart.
Saucon Valley Laundromat is located at 3683 Rt. 378, Bethlehem, between Barber Guru and Werkheiser Jewelers. For more information, stop by or download the Speed Queen app and enter the location code SAUCON. Instructions for downloading and using the app are displayed at the laundromat, which also has folding counters, laundry trolleys, seating and a vending machine.