Our self-service site is located on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Tonawanda, New York. The traffic count is over 40,000 cars per day and features six bays of self-service equipped with Jim Coleman and Mark VII Equipment.
Four years ago, we replaced our touchless equipment with a friction machine. The machine features foam material and our customers love the consistent quality of the wash. But this wasn’t enough. We wanted to offer another service to draw in more customers.
We then decided to offer services to refill propane tanks and installed in-bay dryers in all our bays. These two additions were a huge hit with our customers and they were spending more time and more money at our locations. But we still weren’t satisfied.
That was when we decided to dive into the realm of pet washing.
A new source of revenue
To prepare for the dog wash, we took one bay and divided it in half. In the front portion of the bay, we installed two separate rooms for pet washing, while the rear portion of the bay houses support equipment and a storage area.
The stalls, the floors and the walls are tiled with ceramic and wood paneling. We installed drop ceilings and recess lighting to complete the rooms.
To allow light to filter into the rooms, we used glass block on the front and dividing walls and entrance doors. To create an inviting atmosphere, both the stalls are well-lit and heated. We made this as comfortable and upscale as possible.
In front of the stalls we have an area featuring a 40-column vendor to sell pet supplies and a bench for customers to relax. The bench also features restraints for waiting pets, too. If the need arises, we also have a dispenser with plastic bags so the customers can clean up after their pets.
Research prior to building the dog wash told us that most owners treat their pets like their children. With that in mind, we decided to design the wash to look like a beauty salon (the kind for people).
But every manufacturer we looked at had only stainless steel tubs and a small drain at one end. We saw that as a potential problem, considering what happens in residential bathroom drains: hair clogs prevent adequate drainage.
Therefore, we installed ceramic tubs with a 4” x 20” long drain. The tubs also feature dog restraints at three different heights and lengths to secure your pet while using the equipment.
Our meter box accepts quarters, $1, $5 and $10 dollar bills, coins, and tokens. The machines feature a last-coin alert flashing button rather than an audible alarm that may startle pets. The spray wand and dryer retract to keep them up and out of the way. On our dispensing equipment uses a pump to deliver the product to the tubs.
To supply hot water, we used an instantaneous water heater. When planning the project, we did not anticipate the amount of work it entailed. Because each customer expects to bring his or her pet to a clean facility, we added fans and deodorizing equipment to eliminate odors emitted from the dogs after washing.
To ensure customer satisfaction and site maintenance, we staff a full-time attendant. Currently, we are open 24 hours. Based on experience thus far, we’re considering closing it when the attendant is not available. Without an attendant, we have arrived to small disasters on some mornings.
We are currently working on a adding a vacuum to our meter, allowing the customer to rake and vacuum loose hair off pets. We hope this will help eliminate some of the mess.
Would we do this again, knowing what we know now? Most likely: profits thus far are roughly $750 a month and growing, cost of operations are low, it brings in customers that we may not have had before and, it has created a lot of free advertising and a lot of conversation around town. There are a lot of dogs out there that need a good, clean, friendly place to get clean.
Paul Christian has been in the industry since 1967 and opened Dr. Huggs Carwash on Valentine’s Day in 1973. At one point, Christian operated six tunnel locations, two gas stations and two self-service locations.
Presently, Paul and his wife Carla operate two tunnel locations and one self-service site. Their daughter Denise, and son-in-law, Brian, joined the business in 2000 and work with the day-to-day operations, offering a profitable boat and car detailing service out of their Grand Island, NY facility.