Team rebuilds Beauly Laundrette business following fire
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Laundrette owner Duncan Fraser vividly remembers the morning he was awoken by a telephone call to say there flames were coming of the premises.
Hours later, all that remained of Beauly Laundrette and Dry Cleaners in Station Road was a scene of destruction.
- Pictures: Fire causes significant damage to building
- Laundry destroyed in devastating blaze to reopen
Two years on, the business is doing better than ever in its new location at the back of the nearby Co-op store where Duncan has invested in new machinery, including a huge ironer from the Netherlands, and orders are booming whether it is for a service wash or the cleaning of a horse rug or bridal gown.
Duncan took over the family-run laundrette 10 years ago.
As the business expanded, he opened a new laundry in 2017 and also introduced a pick-up and delivery service for customers including hotels, B&Bs and holiday cottages across the Highlands.
But on Friday August 27 2021, he received a telephone call about 5am at his home in Applecross with the news that flames were coming out of the laundry.
"I arrived to the sight of four fire engines outside the laundrette and lots of smoke pouring out of the roof," recalled Mr Fraser who immediately drove over.
Although firefighters brought the blaze under control, they were called back later following reports of smoke coming from the building.
"The important thing was that everyone was fine," Duncan said. "The next thing was to get in contact with our customers."
The following day was a Saturday – a particularly busy day with changeovers for many tourist accommodation providers.
"It was three days before we could get to the building after the fire inspectors had been there," Duncan said.
"By the following Thursday, the site had been cleared by Simpson Builders who did a fantastic job.
"In the following weeks and months we started looking for new premises.
"There was nothing really suitable but then eventually we found the site where we are now which is pretty good.
"We came into it but there were no services – no water, sewerage, power.
"We had to do a lot of work to get it ready for what we needed.
"In the previous building, we had grown organically adding bits here and there.
"Coming here, we came in with a clean sheet."
Builders Fraser Lee, Firth Plumbing and electricians Simpson & Moir were involved in the rebuild.
Asked what was the hardest part, Duncan replied: "Dealing with the bureaucracy at Highland Council which delayed things by many months."
Eventually, the laundrette reopened in February this year – 18 months after the fire – to the delight of customers who in a recent survey indicated high satisfaction rates for service and quality.
In the first nine months, turnover has already equalled the annual turnover before the fire.
Taking pride of place is the huge ironer and folder, costing over £100,000, which is capable of turning out a sheet every 20 seconds.
The washing machines handle between 13 and 24 kilos at a time although Duncan is now looking at acquiring one which can do 50 to 60 kilos.
The van runs have also restarted across the Highlands including Skye, Torridon, Kishorn, Gairloch, Scourie, Lairg and Easter Ross.
He and his team are already planing for next season, looking to see how they can improve their service and build in the flexibility to allow for more growth.
"What we have achieved this year has been amazing and it is all down to how well the staff have worked as a team," he said.
Heather Hughson, who is part of the 12-strong team, has worked for the business for more than 20 years and was delighted to welcome back customers.
She compared the new premises to the previous building.
"The old place grew very quickly because the business took off so quickly," she said.
"This place is much roomier and has a high ceiling and the ironer is excellent. It is so much better."
Another team member, Beckie Bell, said: "It is really rewarding to see the way things are when they come in and what they are like when have been through the process – and then to see the reaction of customers."
Rhianna Day said there was a sense of team spirit. "We really gel well together as a team which makes a difference. It is important we get along and communicate with each other."