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News from the industry

October 11, 2010
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Rápido wash chain shows aggressive strength

Beverly, MA-based, Rápido Rabbit® Car Wash, a national franchisor of exterior express carwashes, has opened its second branded carwash in Hot Springs, AR, and is planning on building more this summer.

Currently, Rápido Rabbit® has nine area development agreements signed in seven states with 72 carwash locations committed.

The new Hot Springs location is the first for the brand in Arkansas, and is owned by South Central Carwash Development, LLC's and Paul and Penny Fitzgerald.

Paul Stagg, CEO of the project's developer ACS, Inc., said that "In Arkansas, we will open 15-20 new locations in the next two years. Five locations are opening in the next 90 days."

Rápido Rabbit® features a $3, three-minute exterior carwash with free vacuums.

The new wash held its grand opening recently, with proceeds from the event going to the Boys and Girls Club of Hot Springs.

Customers who attended the opening had the opportunity to win a two-night and three-day stay in Eureka Springs, courtesy of local radio station KLAZ, along with a family membership to Garvan Woodland Gardens, season passes to Magic Springs, and several other prizes.

Wash owner agrees to pay $4M for tax fraud

A Rumson, NJ, car-care business owner, who has admitted to evading the payment of business sales and employee withholding taxes, has agreed to pay more than $4 million in restitution.

Michael James Buonopane pleaded guilty to offenses involving his Country Sudser Car Wash and Country Sudser businesses, as well as a number of oil change centers he operated in parts of New Jersey.

Under an agreement made with the court, Buonopane will make restitution of $4,031,723, representing about $2.8 million in principal, $1 million in interest and $210,000 in penalties.

Buonopane faced 25 years in state prison and $315,000 in fines when he was sentenced on Oct. 21, 2004, but according to a plea agreement reached with the Attorney General's Office, the state will recommend Buonopane serve no more than five years and will take no position on fines.

Authorities have said it may have been the biggest tax fraud scheme ever uncovered by state investigators. Neither Buonopane, nor his lawyer Michael B. Himmel, could be reached for comment.

Carwash chain continues express trend

For more than two decades, Car Pool has operated full-service carwashes in the Richmond area, but the company is adapting to customer demands by offering an exterior-only carwash at one location.

According to Paul Carr, Car Pool's chief executive, customers have been asking for a wash-and-go type carwash because of time constraints; if the exterior-only carwash format works it could become a growth vehicle for the future.

Car Pool's move into express-exterior carwashing closely follows expansions of other major carwash chains such as National Car Wash and Bubbles Express carwashes into the growing market.

"Full-service car cleaning has been our heritage," Carr said, "this is an attempt for us to adapt to changes." Car Pool's six other Richmond area locations will remain full-service.

For only $7 to $10 at the new exterior-only site, customers can stay in their cars and ride through the wash tunnel. Car Pool employees towel dry the vehicle at the end, and free vacuums are available for those who want to clean out the car's interior.

Carr said that, "for that price, you are getting a better wash than you would get at a gas station carwash or if you were doing itself yourself at a spray wash."

Water woes cause carwashes to turn business away

City water treatment plants in Calgary, Alberta, have been unable to process increased sediment generated by recent heavy rains and floods, and have issued a mandated restriction on carwash operations.

In response, the city imposed a mandatory ban on carwashing and watering lawns or gardens, with the threat of a fine.

Water treatment officials believe they may have to shut off service to large commercial users outside the city, which would impact all city carwashes.

Some commercial carwash owners have already taken the costly step of voluntarily closing their doors, such as Robert Calderwood with the Western Pride Car Wash.

Calderwood said that he's been turning away business, but that it's all for the benefit of the city and that he hopes the water problems will work themselves out.

Mayor Dave Bronconnier assured city residents that their drinking water was safe so far, but warned them to ration their water use.