A unique family business now its third generation of leadership and headquartered in Inwood brings a distinctive perspective to the commercial laundry equipment industry.
Now known as Laundrylux, the company supplies coin laundry equipment to Laundromats and multi-housing projects, and what is called on-premise laundry equipment to large and small businesses.
The firm on Doughty Boulevard also supports Laundromats with its funding service and a creative arm that helps owners market their business.
Founded in the late 1950s by Bernard Milch, a Holocaust survivor who came to the United States when he was 15, the company was first established as Wascomat after Milch, who had an engineering background and experience in laundry equipment sales and service was hired to assess the damage to the laundry equipment aboard the Swedish American Line’s M/S Stockholm after the ship collided with the Andrea Doria, near Nantucket in 1956.
“My grandfather started the company in the late 1950s,” said Laundrylux President Cody Milch, the son of Neal Milch, the company’s executive chairman. “It was actually in a different location. He had to find a big enough space so he moved to Lawrence from Brooklyn.”
By combining the name Wascator, for the Swedish-made front-load stainless steel washers and the auto from the Automat food vending places that once existed across New York City, Bernard created Wascomat. The first of many all-Wascomat coin laundries opened in Manhattan in 1960.
After the company attained what company officials called “a substantial share of the self-service coin laundry market in North America,” it expanded sales to hotels, motels, nursing homes, hospitals, firehouses, military bases, salons, cruise ships, and other on-premises laundry operations such as the Alaskan pipeline and nuclear submarines.
“I think for me it means a lot because of what my grandfather had to go through not just to be successful, but to survive, and for my father to take that as CEO and grow it beyond,” Cody said in regards to being the third generation.
Bernard died on Jan. 6. He was 93. In 1980, Carl XIV Gustaf, the King of Sweden, knighted him for his contribution to Swedish-American business. Bernard’s favorite saying “only in America,” was said after that ceremony.
Moving the company forward, Laundrylux has collaborated with Electrolux Professional, the professional products division of Electrolux to develop new products, integrated technologies and applications for coin laundry and OPL markets.
“We have worked closely with Electrolux Professional for decades, “ Neal Milch said in a news release, “now the tight integration of products, applications and data analytics requires an even closer collaboration.”
Looking in from the outside, the commercial laundry industry might not seem the most people-oriented of businesses, but Cody begs to differ. “I think that specifically in the Laundromat business the vast majority of Laundromat owners are just individuals and first- or second-generation with a very similar story to my grandfather,” said Cody, who also views Laundromats as community gathering places, where people are not only doing laundry, but are sharing a cup of coffee with their neighbors. “We really care about this and every person we sell equipment to or sell a service. People have started with nothing and have become millionaires.”
Wascomat-equipped coin laundries are now found in every population center across the U.S. Canada and Mexico, according to company officials. Many stores have Wascomat washers more than 40 years old that remain in operation.