I’d been in the home building business my entire career and needed a change of scenery. My partner and I had built four developments, and we just didn’t want to go down that road again. We wanted a lasting, local business that served the community, as opposed to the huge financial exposure of purchasing and developing properties. Real estate development is a tough game, especially when you’re building out communities over a long period of time and dealing with cumbersome regulations related to real estate development.
In 2015, we had a parcel of land that seemed to be well-suited for a car wash, and we searched for who might be the best advisor to help us build this car wash. We found Howco via an online search and subsequently met Howco representative, Tim Fitzpatrick who quickly became the “chosen one,” if you will, to guide us through the process of equipment selection, building layout, and all the necessary components of starting a car wash. Tim came to Roanoke to meet with my partner and me to discuss our initial thoughts about what we wanted. Tim took our information, noted our goals and desires, and presented us with a projected prospectus if we opened in this particular location.
Prior to opening Blue Hills Car Wash, we visited approximately two dozen car washes built by Howco. We examined equipment, building layouts and studied traffic flow. Howco helped us determine next steps by inviting us to their headquarters in Charlotte, where they provided great training and resources for us to better understand how the various washes we visited process vehicles. Howco provided substantial background information on the entire wash procedure – from the time the car hits the property until it leaves the lot -- including details on how to clean a car as quickly, efficiently, and effectively as possible.
They also covered employee staffing, payroll, training, and other valuable information. We found this immensely helpful as a new car wash operator, because we had no experience or historical data. Howco provided me with a “master’s degree” in car washing before we opened the store. They made it easy and educational for a new car wash investor.
From day one, we could clearly see that Howco consultant, Frank Donaldson and his team knew exactly what they were doing in every aspect. They were as efficient at their job as we’ve ever witnessed, especially installing the car wash tunnel. They always allowed us to stand over their shoulders asking questions and absorbing their knowledge about equipment operation, maintenance, and troubleshooting. The Howco installation was quite a remarkable process, and the crew could not have been any better.
Every single time we need help, Frank is available. His response time, knowledge, and dedication to customer service is Hands-down, without question, like nothing we’ve witnessed in business. I am very pleased with and inspired by my Howco experience.
We are gaining customers from full, flex-serve and express car wash competitors, but we want to be primarily a full-service car wash. Our goal is to meet customers, get to know them, bring them inside our building, and give them a 25-minute onsite experience that is hopefully second-to-none. Our catch phrase is: We want to provide a remarkable experience for each and every customer. Predominantly, Blue Hills Car Wash is 85% full-serve and 15% express.
Learning the car wash industry has been a challenging and rewarding experience. My partner and I have no regrets and we are very optimistic about the future because of our partnership with Howco. We have done outstandingly well with on location considering the unusual weather patterns over the past year. It’s always a consideration to grow, but for now, we will remain focused on making Blue Hills Car Wash the best in the Roanoke Valley.