Professional Carwashing & Detailing’s 2006 Self-Serve Industry Leaders Review is the result of an extensive research project created to compile profiles of the nation’s top-performing self-serve carwashes in a variety of categories.
Questionnaires were sent to hundreds of self-serve operators throughout the country, and responses from top-performers were verified by PC&D’s editorial staff.
The following profiles represent only those washes willing to participate in the project and share information. We are thankful for the participation of those wash operators, without whom this project would not be possible.
Lucky number 8
Commitment to quality gave this carwash an edge on competition.
If Ryan Johnson has a lucky number, it must be eight. The CEO of Industry Car Wash, a division of Mac’s Carwashes, oversees an operation of eight washes in Oklahoma. Of which the most profitable wash, located in Oklahoma City, runs eight self-serve bays with eight vacuums.
And while he isn’t sticking with a lucky $8 price point for his self-serve wash, Johnson still drives a pretty fair profit. Carwash rates run 75 cents for two minutes and twelve seconds, while vacuums are 50 cents for two minutes.
A family legacy
Johnson’s grandfather, Barney Brown, built the legacy of carwashes from the ground up over 20 years ago. From there, the business has stayed in family hands, although Johnson’s involvement didn’t begin until 2004.
Before joining the family carwash, Johnson worked in corporate finance. Three years ago, Johnson relocated from California to come into the family business, realizing it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
According to Johnson, the carwash is successful for two reasons: quality and maintenance. “We maintain them. We see them twice a day. We run it like a first business. We are carwash professionals,” Johnson said.
A bright and shiny future
Recently, the carwash made considerable investments for the future by installing new credit card acceptors, vacuums, pumps and a wide range of equipment upgrades.
Johnson said it is important for any carwash hopeful to do their research.
“We hope to continue to thrive and expand,” said Johnson. In fact, the future is so bright, they’re looking to add another carwash to the current line-up. Which might bring Johnson’s lucky number up to nine.
Total locations: 8
Total wand bays: 57
Total IBAs: 0
Wand bays at largest site: 8
IBAs at largest site: 0
Vacuums at largest site: 3
Lot size (in acres) at largest site: 3
Most profitable location: Industry Car wash, Oklahoma City, OK
Location brings success
“Location, location, location” holds true for this carwash.
Over 20 years ago, Reuven Zeavy, owner and president of the Zeavy Carwash Company, moved from Israel to the United States. Shortly after his move in 1980, Zeavy opened a commercial print shop – but his business success in that industry would lead him to new horizons. And with those new horizons, new successes.
Today, Zeavy owns two self-serves: one six and the other eight bays in southern California. His most profitable carwash is called Victory Carwash in Burbank, California, which you might recall as the address of several famous movie stars.
A claim to fame
At Victory Carwash, the equipment room is in the center of the facility, with four bays on either side. “I suspect I have one of the largest equipment rooms in the country,” Zeavy said. “It’s 24’x24’, with a mezzanine.”
The carwash yields a grand impression: arches are featured in each bay with tiles and accents both in the bays and at the 11 vacuum areas.
Zeavy owes his success to his profitable location. “Because we’re in the city of Burbank, where Jay Leno and others are located, we’re the only self-serve carwash in the city of 110,000 people,” said Zeavy. The wash has even been in commercials and magazines like Rolling Stone.
“We are very lucky not only because we have 110,000 people of the city of Burbank, but also because the neighboring city of Glendale, a population of about 200,000, doesn’t have a self-serve carwash,” said Zeavy. According to Zeavy, the cities will not allow any more self-serve carwashes in their vicinity.
Pursuing his dream
Before Zeavy decided to leave the print shop business, he scoured the classifieds to review businesses for sale. “Not so much as to choose something out of there, but to see what is not there,” Zeavy explained.
For Zeavy, the matter was a process of elimination. He knew the best businesses are not for sale, and he knew he wanted a job that did not demand a lot of time and employees. He just needed to match the two ideas together.
In 1997, Zeavy built his first carwash. In 2000, encouraged by the carwash’s success, he closed the print shop and started thinking about expanding his carwash business.
The second carwash followed in 2005, rebuilt from an existing carwash built in 1971.
When the wash first opened, Zeavy ran a special of $1.50 washes then moved to $2.25 with no bonus time.
“We use credit cards, dollar coins and quarters, both dispensable from the change machines,” said Zeavy. Credit card usage accounts for 15 percent of the carwash income.
Zeavy’s washes have tire cleaner with a brush, pre-soak, high-pressure soap, foam brush, high-pressure rinse, wax, clear-coat and spot-free rinse. Wash fees are $2.25 for four minutes. Vacuums are available in two options: two motors with four minutes for $1 or, three motors with three minutes for $1.
At each carwash location, Zeavy employs one full and one part-time employee. The full-time employees are considered managers as they are essentially in charge of the wash when Zeavy is not there. “The managers do whatever needs to be done to help customers,” Zeavy explained.
Zeavy’s goal is to have the best customer service around. Customers can use comment cards, printed on 6”x3” bright yellow card stock, to report lost money, malfunctioning machinery or just to offer a suggestion. After a follow-up phone call by Zeavy, refund checks are issued immediately to the customer. “We get a lot of good will by doing that,” Zeavy said.
An attendant is on-site at all times to keep the facility clean and to ensure all machinery is functioning properly. “I don’t let anything slide,” said Zeavy, adding, “If I have to, I’ll drive to the distributor to pick up something.” Zeavy said he keeps back-up supplies at the carwash just in case anything goes wrong.
According to Zeavy, giving your customers quality and service are most important to running a successful self-serve carwash. “You give that to them,” he said, “and they will keep coming back.”
Total locations: 2
Total wand bays: 14
Total IBAs: 0
Wand bays at largest site: 8
IBAs at largest site: 0
Vacuums at largest site: 11
Lot size (in acres) at largest site: 0.33
Most profitable location:
Victory Carwash, Burbank, CA
Hard work and dedication pay off
Automatic doesn’t mean self-sustaining.
Success is a product of hard work and determination. Sometimes, starting all over again following unfortunate events, like natural disasters and road reconstruction, helps to better a situation the second time around. Ray Kresyman, CEO and president of Ray & Steve's Carwashes, experienced just that with his two most successful locations.
Success comes in pairs
Kresyman operates 10 carwashes, with the two most successful locations in Joplin, Missouri and Columbus, Kansas.
The carwashes are owned and operated by Ray and his son Steve Kresyman. According to Ray, Steve is “his right hand man” and equally responsible for the carwashes’ success.
Steve has worked with his father since he was about 10 years old, progressively learning the trade from Ray and becoming the primary owner of their Oklahoma location.
The Joplin location was Kresyman’s first carwash and this month will mark its 30th anniversary. “About five years ago, there was a tornado that came through Joplin. It totaled the carwash so we leveled it and rebuilt a new one,” said Kresyman. The new location features six bays and two automatics.
Today, the site is one of his most successful — but not the only one affected by drastic change.
In nearby Kansas, Kresyman was forced to close a carwash when the state widened the road. “The state bought our carwash, so we built a new facility,” said Kresyman. The new location is the second most profitable site of Kresyman’s 10.
A new beginning
Before Kresyman’s success in the carwashing business, he was in the brokerage industry. Back then, Kresyman told his CPA he would be interested in a small business that wouldn’t take too much money to get into, and wouldn’t take too much time away from his brokerage.
Six months following that conversation, Kresyman’s CPA called with the opportunity that started his new career. What he asked changed his life, “How would you like to buy a carwash?” Kresyman laughed, responding, “Why not; let’s buy two.”
“I had no more idea about running a carwash or buying a carwash than I could fly an airplane,” Kresyman recalled.
Following that conversation, Kresyman did his homework. He conducted research about the carwashing industry and the more involved and interested he became, so did his idea of becoming a successful carwash owner.
Since the purchase of his first carwash in Joplin, Kresyman has either bought or built new carwashes to add to his growing business.
But Kresyman didn’t know how successful his Joplin location would be. “I don’t know whether I was just fortunate or lucky or both. It was a good one. When I saw the amount of return it was giving me on the investment, about four years later, I sold my brokerage business and went into the carwash business full-time,” said Kresyman.
Pleasing the customer
Kresyman said two factors have led to his success in the carwash business: treating the customer with respect and letting them know their loyalty is appreciated. Without the support of loyal customers, Kresyman knows his carwashes would be worth zilch.
Kresyman tells his staff to do anything they have to do to please the customer. “After all, our customers are coming here by choice,” he said. There are several other carwashes in the area, but customers repeatedly choose Ray & Steve’s Carwashes instead.
Having an attendant to help customers is another reason for their success. The attendant can take care of any problem or need that may arise with customers and carwash operations.
Kresyman said he uses the best chemicals that money can buy. “This keeps people coming back,” he explained. “I wouldn’t use anything other that the best. Why would I give anything less to my customers?”
Kresyman is constantly on the lookout for another location. Their present plans are to build a new carwash 60 miles northwest of Joplin. It will follow the same structure as the Columbus location: one automatic with five bays.
Anyone interested in the carwash business should heed Kresyman’s words of advice, “There is no business that will run itself. If you are not dedicated, the business will fail. Be prepared to take care of your carwash properly.”
Total locations: 10
Total wand bays: 72
Total IBAs: 11
Wand bays at largest site: 6
IBAs at largest site: 2
Vacuums at largest site: 6
Lot size (in acres) at largest site: 1.7
Most profitable location: Joplin, MO