by Tim Fitzpatrick, Mid-Atlantic Sales Manager, Howco Inc.
If ever there was a classic example of the idiom “killing two birds with one stone,” it is the unique existence of Beach Bubbles Car Wash in Virginia Beach, VA. In fact, we are not aware of a similar setup anywhere in the U.S. car wash industry.
For Tom Barton, owner of Beach Ford car dealership, the “birds” are his vehicle inventory and the general driving public. His “stone” is Beach Bubbles Car Wash, which services both bases simultaneously.
Beach Ford originally hand-washed new and used inventory vehicles at the dealership, consuming a great deal of labor and materials. Howco proposed to Tom that he build an automatic car wash facility to accomplish this. We first explored potential sites and models for a wash on the existing property but ultimately determined there was not room for an optimal wash configuration and that any additional buildings would displace too much parking space.
Then a one-acre parcel of land (formerly home to a bank branch) adjacent to the dealership became available for bid. Tom sought Howco’s evaluation of the property for a wash site, and we confirmed it would be great for a retail setup. Tom decided to move forward with building a car wash there to suit his first venture’s needs and also make the wash available to the general public, a double-duty idea that is working nicely. Howco subsequently crafted a plan that worked within the customer’s desired budget.
Beach Bubbles Car Wash opened in March 2022 and features two Razor® touch-free, in-bay automatic rollovers. The operation is fully automated, touchless, and cashless, utilizing Portal TI®+ pay stations to offer four wash options ranging from $7 to $15 and accept credit card payments from the general public. Beach Bubbles also offers four credit card-operated J.E. Adams vacuums and features High Velocity® wall-mounted dryers and Turtle Wax® Pro chemistry.
In addition to the two wash bays, the facility also includes five bays for detailing and prepping dealership cars for sale, with plans for extending a full detail service option soon to the public.
The car wash’s public business component is increasing, driven by marketing promotions and incentives offered to Beach Ford service customers. Other marketing strategies include on-site signage touting benefits such as unlimited wash club memberships. To implement the wash’s membership program, Howco introduced Beach Bubbles to the EverWash platform, which provides technology, management, and marketing assistance for the program. Club wash transactions are completed on-site via a QR code or online. Dealership cars washed are also tracked via the EverWash system for accounting purposes.
Tom Barton envisioned a quick, simple, effective, touchless car wash experience to serve two different customer bases. Howco is gratified to have been part of bringing the concept to fruition and looks forward to continuing on the journey as Beach Bubbles considers additional locations.