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Business Operations

How one carwash chain is handling the drought

October 11, 2010
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It’s been a tough run for anyone who needs or uses water in North Carolina, but for Autobell Car Wash, Inc., the pain is acute. With 49 carwash locations spread throughout 25 North Carolina communities (as well as one city in South Carolina, and four in Virginia), Autobell is actively working to make North Carolina a carwash-friendly state during the drought.

PC&D spoke with Carl Howard, vice president and chief operating officer of Autobell Car Wash Inc., to learn two things: how the company is handling the drought, and on a somewhat unrelated note, how the carwash chain is giving back to the United States military.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: How has the drought that hit North Carolina affected your carwashes?

Carl Howard: Autobell is in one South Carolina and 25 different North Carolina municipalities affected by the drought. Each one has different ordinances for drought conditions. Basically, we significantly adjusted our water use in accordance with our water management policy which, in addition to year-round practices, also addresses voluntary water reductions and mandatory restrictions via using a higher ratio of recycled water, adjusting nozzle sizes and elimination of all on-site irrigation and hose downs.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What is your company doing to combat the effects of drought? Are their specific drought-related plans for the future?

CH: We will continue to develop facilities using water reclamation technology. As that technology changes, we will adopt the best of those changes. We began operating our first 100 percent reclaim system in December 2007 and have been pleased with the results.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What is the hardest thing to do in terms of conserving water at a carwash?

CH: Keeping the facilities clean has been more difficult. Obviously, using brooms and towels to clean up bays is more labor intensive.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Please tell us about the recent award Autobell received for being a good employer of people serving in the military?

CH: Autobell was among 62 North Carolina employers recognized for exceptional support of its employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve. The company received the “Above and Beyond” Award from the North Carolina Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), and agency of the Department of Defense. The Autobell nomination came from Mooresville, NC, Autobell store manager Steve Houser, a North Carolina National Guard member who served in Iraq.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Why is hiring people in the military important to Autobell?

CH: While we do not specifically target military personnel for hiring, we know that these are some of the finest and most dependable and disciplined people in our country, and we certainly believe supporting them is important. We hire the best people possible for our carwashes. If they happen to be in or join the Reserve or Armed Forces while employed at Autobell, we accommodate and support them as best as we can.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Why and how long has the company been doing this?

CH: We applaud the courage and commitment of those who serve our country, and we support them and their families in the sacrifices they make. We’ve done this for as long as I can remember.