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Plato's ancient saying is widely known: Necessity … is the mother of invention. And if ever there was an era in the carwash industry that called out for invention and new ideas, it was the past few years. While some owners and operators chose to hunker down during the destructive financial storm, others soldiered on armed with fresh intentions and do-it-yourself ideologies.
Now that the storm may be mercifully subsiding, it is easy to look around and study the outcome. Obviously, some car care businesses let fears stymie their attempts to grow. As a result, these businesses and their profit margins have grown stagnant. Other businesses, while still scared, managed to find some success in chaos by striking out in new directions. Sure, failure dogged their tracks — and even won the occasional battle — but the businesses that continued to fight sometimes found success under the darkest clouds.
One business that followed a number of interesting paths over the past few years is Paradise Car Wash in Scottsbluff, NE. In fact, it seems Wayne and Tori Brozek, owners of Paradise, were always ready to try something new, different and unexpected. Going back to the beginning, Paradise Car Wash, and a number of other additional profit center ideas, were spawned after the Brozeks moved their marketing and promotional products business to a new location.
From deserted to detailing
Wayne Brozek explained that Paradise Car Wash was, strangely enough, born inside an empty Burger King. After finding a deserted fast-food franchise, the Brozeks decided to relocate their marketing and promotional products business to the building. Once that move was complete, Brozek's attention turned to the spacious, but lonely, parking lot. "It had this huge empty lot, and I have always wanted a carwash for some unknown reason, and the search was on for the equipment." Perhaps Brozek's desire to own a carwash wash was a result of his 25-year history in the automotive business.
Regardless, Brozek's multi-state carwash search was soon successful; he found a six-bay, self-serve building with one automatic wash that was for sale. He purchased the building and the equipment, and everything was moved to Nebraska.
"Once I had the equipment and started to get serious about the business … I decided that a tunnel wash [was] more of what I wanted and not the in-bay automatic that I purchased," he said. This led to another search, this time for an available conveyor wash. "I found one in Texas that had never been used and purchased it."
When the washes were set, the Brozeks continued to look for additional profit centers that could operate on the property. While learning about the industry, the two discovered the dog wash concept and decided to give it a try. "I found that a dog wash in western Nebraska is fine if you have additional space and would like to have the novelty, but a detail shop is a better way to generate revenue," Brozek revealed. Today, the dog wash has been removed, and the space is now used as a bay for detail services.
Surveillance, equipment and grasshoppers
While operating Paradise Car Wash over the past few years, Brozek has "learned a ton" about products that help save his carwash money. First, he found that security cameras on-site can provide savings for an owner in more ways than one. Surveillance recordings have protected Paradise profits from both dishonest employees as well as some carwash customers.
Chemicals have proven important also. "I would say having a good relationship with your local chemical distributor is fundamental," Brozek continued. "The majority of chemical distributors are three hours, or farther, away from our site, so having someone that knows the business and who works with [our] site to ensure proper chemical usage is key."
Another piece of equipment that has contributed to Paradise's success is the wash's water reclaim system. Brozek noted that the system allows the wash to utilize waste water on certain arches, so less fresh water is needed during the typical cycle. "These systems seem to be improving every year," he said.
Yet, not every equipment decision at Paradise has proven this fruitful. Brozek explained that he initially saved money by choosing a less expensive point-of-sale (POS) system. In this instance, he admitted to learning how paying less is not always better.
Finally, there was plenty to learn about the challenges Mother Nature and grasshoppers would provide during the typical Nebraska year. "We have some pretty cold and windy days in Nebraska, and hot summer days," Brozek recalled. "During the winter we have to keep torpedo heaters running in the bay to prevent water from freezing up and causing damage. In the spring and summer months, we have terrible grasshopper problems, and the front end of vehicles can be a huge challenge to get clean."
Tag frames, uniforms and a monkey
Since Paradise is basically an off-shoot of a marketing and promotional products business, there are always some interesting marketing ideas at the wash. Paradise Car Wash license plate frames are one example. "My wife made us some really great license plate frames, and we install them on our customers' vehicles," Brozek said.
Here, the frames advertise and let other drivers know about Paradise Car Wash. In addition, the customers who sport the frames get special savings on carwashes as well as discounts on detail services. The Brozeks are even considering a free carwash day for the license frame customers.
Also, the couple's marketing company is able to provide uniforms for all of Paradise's employees. "I found that having my wife make all of our uniforms, and keeping our guys and gals in more than a inexpensive t-shirt, promotes a feel of professionalism," Brozek stated.
One employee that is always in uniform is the Paradise monkey mascot, Coconut. Coconut is on-site on certain weekends, and he always makes an appearance whenever the carwash hosts fundraisers.
Remodeling the restaurant
In 2009, the move to the empty Burger King with the spacious parking lot was a necessity because the marketing and promotional products business had outgrown its previous space. Waiting a year for a new building to be constructed from the ground up was not an option, and the Brozeks felt the restaurant would make a great new location.
As alluded to previously, the Brozek's marketing business creates custom embroidery work and makes hats, shirts, coats and other items for different companies. Still, going from meat patties to marketing required some remodeling.
"There were many headaches associated with the remodeling process, many of them came from just dealing with my idea of getting the jobs finished and the contractor's idea of getting the job finished," Brozek said. "I had higher and quicker expectations than most of them had. I also found that [a renovation] costs twice as much and takes three times as long."
Even so, the Brozeks did receive some funds from local economic development resources to assist them with the project. The funds were provided at fair market rate to assist with any type of construction or equipment costs. Mainly, the assistance just made the required down payment less for the funding.
What's on the menus?
Still, taking into account the restaurant location, surely there's some food to be found at Paradise Car Wash? "When we opened we had a Martini bar and deli … my wife hired a culinary chef shortly after we opened to work with her mother to prepare Panini sandwiches," Brozek said.
The chef also found time to prepare Brozek's wife different dishes for lunch. Between the two of them, the food offerings expanded from "small deli" to "full restaurant." During this time, Paradise's menu included items such as seafood alfredo, ribs, grilled salmon and hand-cut, aged steaks.
Another additional profit center at Paradise was a gourmet coffee shop for early risers. "My wife loves a good Latte, so of course we had to become baristas," Brozek said.
After almost three years at the new location, the core embroidery and promotional products business needed room to expand. The restaurant was closed, and the prime space that the restaurant occupied was taken over by the marketing business. Three large embroidery machines were placed in the front of the building.
Even so, the food selection has not completely disappeared. The marketing/carwashing/detailing restaurant still offers German cuisine. Brozek said certain German foods are available for special order, but they can only be purchased "to go" since all of the restaurant's tables and chairs have been removed.