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Remembering Sherman L. Larson
By Fred Grauer, Contributing Writer
Sherm Larson, the founder of Sherman Vacuum Company, later renamed Sherman Supersonic Industries and Sherman Industries, passed away Feb. 5 in Riverton, NJ, at the age of 93.
Sherm's contribution to the modern carwash industry is legendary. Things that operators use every day, wrap around brushes, friction curtains, conveyors, high pressure equipment, vacuums and everything in between had his stamp. Sherm fathered or played a major role in the development of more than 50 patented products for the carwash industry that were licensed to and or manufactured by the company he founded, Sherman Vacuum Company.
Sherm started life on an Iowa farm, ran away from home at the age of 16, settled in L.A. and began building sets for the movie industry. WWII broke out and Sherm began working in an airplane factory while living above a retail vacuum store. One day while sweeping rivets from inside a plane's fuselage Sherm thought he could build a vacuum to do the same job. He built and sold a number of vacuums during the war, at wars end a friend told Sherm about a new and growing industry, carwashing.
The rest is history. Sherm put a vacuum on a trailer, took it from wash to wash, and sold every one. As time passed operators were requesting Sherm to develop other carwash equipment. Sherm complied by developing, innovating and building carwash equipment that one day would lead Sherman Industries to be the most prolific provider of tunnel carwash, self-serve, and large vehicle equipment our industry had seen.
In the mid 50s Sherm sold his business to Bill Thacher, a carwash operator in southern New Jersey. Bill provided the capital, business sense and vision to grow Sherman's fledging enterprise to become the leaders in carwash development. As time progressed Bill's nephews, Turk Thacher and Fred Grauer, joined Bill and Sherm. Sherm was able to now focus all his attention on innovation, Sherm remained with the company he started until it was sold in the early 90s.
Sherm's innovations were a result of his relentless pursuit in providing solutions to the thousands of carwash operators he would meet and work with during his hundreds of trips visiting carwashes in every corner of the carwash world. It was normal for Sherm, his wife Ava and his Suburban with trailer attached, to park in a customer's lot and spend days listening and brainstorming a solution that would result in improved carwash performance and in many cases new product for the carwash industry.
Sherm with all his talent, skills and intellect was one of the kindest, gentlest and most passionate men I have ever met. Sherm never forgot his roots and never lost his humility. Sherm's passing is monumental especially considering his contributions, and in many cases the lack of recognition by our industry of a true industry giant, one whom many have followed but never been able to fill his shoes.
• GlasWeld of Bend, OR, announced the introduction of an Essentials Series of products for windshield repair, headlight restoration and glass scratch removal at the Mobile Tech Expo.
The Essential Series is based upon patented and professional-grade products, and the packages contain all the needed equipment for the services.
In addition, the products are all supported by a comprehensive training program available in the form of manuals, DVDs and in-person and online training.
"We were overwhelmed by the level of interest in these new product offerings, the number of sales that were written and the attendance at our company sponsored training sessions," Seth Schuepbach, GlasWeld's director of operations, said in a press release.
• Applied Colors of Beaverton, OR, announced the finalized design of a Vinyl and Leather Re-dye Kit for detailers. The kit is an efficient and practical way to recondition the old leather, vinyl and ceilings of vehicles, and it was created to help detail businesses expand their menu of service offerings.
Re-dye skills can be learned in under four hours, and the equipment comes in one package available on the company's website.
Previously, there was not a practical way to do color matching and deployment without spending an inordinate amount of time on the repair.
• Turtle Wax of Willowbrook, IL, launched a new website that caters to carwash operators and distributors.
The website will be an easy way to research Turtle Wax's portfolio of products, and the site will feature extensive product information, new products, events and a distributor locator.
Jeff Resmer, director of professional products, said in a statement, "Turtle Wax launched turtlewaxpro.com in order to increase industry awareness to its full range of products and value added services. We believe we've developed a site that is not only informative but is extremely easy to navigate."
• Lustra, a DePere, WI-based division of Cleaning Systems Inc. (CSI), said it has increased its manufacturing output with the introduction of two new automated packaging lines.
The new lines will increase output by four times the company's current capability.
"As demand for the Ultraflex product increased, so did our need for faster automated equipment to keep up," said Dave Krause, president and CEO of CSI. "We are not yet running at peak speed with this new equipment, but we anticipate continued growth of the Ultraflex business and will easily keep up with the demand."
• Fifty people turned out at the Car Wash Operators of New Jersey's (CWONJ) Winter Membership Meeting, which was entitled "Using eMarketing to Grow Your Business," and held in Clark, NJ.
Adam Korngold of Wave's Car Wash gave the presentation, telling attendees he cut his advertising expenses by 50 percent and increased his volume and market share through eMarketing.
CWONJ Lobbyist Patrick Stewart of Public Strategies Impact in Newark, NJ, was also on hand at the meeting to provide an update to attendees.