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Business Operations

Case study: Ipswich Car Wash

October 11, 2010
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Drought: It was a topic I didn’t expect to hear much about at the Northeast Regional Carwash Convention in Atlantic City, NJ. First, a manufacturer asked me how new and old carwashers are dealing with drought. Then, operator after operator brought up the subject; telling me of the dire circumstances they either face now or will face in the future due to increasing water restrictions or fees.

It seems drought is a growing threat these days in the northeast, a region seldom concerned with drought before. For owner and operator Ken Ouellette of Ipswich Car Wash in Ipswich, MA, seasonal drought problems were the biggest hurdle in launching his new carwash. Water worries had forced his municipality to triple its water rate from $2.29 per 100 cubic feet to $7.49 per 100 cubic feet during the summer months.

Drastic measures
Ouellette said the property of his carwash is built around wetlands — and all businesses in the area must find a way to replenish each gallon of water taken from the city supply. Facing such circumstances, Oullette teamed up with New Wave Industries-PurClean/PurWater, a supplier to the carwash industry, and with Liz and Frank Ditommaso of Car Wash Services & Equipment of New England to develop a unique carwash designed to be a water saving powerhouse.

The result is a carwash that has taken water conservation to an entirely new level. Ipswich Car Wash incorporates a rainwater harvesting system that collects all rainwater that falls on the property in an underground holding tank. The tank can hold up to 60,000 gallons of water. According to Ouellete’s engineer, a typical rainfall of 1-inch on the property yields 15,000 gallons of water.

Once collected, the rainwater is then filtered and used to wash vehicles as well as provide the necessary irrigation for landscaping. Approximately 30-50 gallons of RO water is used in each wash cycle, depending on the size of the vehicle.

Ouellette has also incorporated a water recovery system that filters all the wash water and reuses it. The total fresh water usage has been reduced to just eight gallons of water per vehicle and is used only to provide the final rinse as the vehicle exits the wash.

Signs, signs, everywhere signs
While driving to Ipswich Car Wash to meet with Oulette, I was taken aback by the abundance of signs warning residents of the mandatory water ban. It was a rather shocking sight to see on a drive through Massachusetts.

According to Ouellette, the usual restrictions were in place, including a ban on driveway carwashing. “The ban on driveway washing has increased my business profit significantly, especially once patrons find out how much water I recycle,” said Ouellette.

Business operations
Alongside the one-year-old carwash, Ouellette operates Riverside Auto, a car care maintenance business he has owned for 26 years. His home also lies behind the two properties, ensuring smooth, daily operations.

Ouellette purchased the carwash property from his neighbor for $250,000. The carwash features three touchless in-bay automatics and was built for a grand total of $1,500,000 — including property cost, construction and equipment.

Ipswich operates without any attendants. Because Ouellette is either next door at the auto shop or at his home located behind the two businesses, he can take care of problems as they arise. No staff at the carwash also keeps operation costs down. The wash menu ranges from $7-10 and includes payment options of cash, credit or code entry via an auto sentry.

Loyalty cards are also implemented at the carwash. Once a patron buys four carwashes, the fifth wash is free. Ouellette also has fleet accounts with the local police department. This set-up provides many security benefits to the carwash, too. “Cops sit at the end of my entrance driveway. This alone deters thieves and vandals from even thinking of doing anything to the wash. It’s a win-win situation,” said Ouellette.

Ipswich Car Wash utilizes video surveillance of the entrance way, inside the bay and exit of the carwash to deter thefts and prevent crime. “Having security cameras help protect me during insurance cases and vandalism. All I have to do is play the tape for the judge and he can see for himself who did it. It’s a no brainer,” said Ouellette.

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