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Don’t be surprised next Christmastime if you happen to be in Virginia Beach, VA, and see Santa kneeling down shining tires in a parking lot. That’s because Elias “Louie” Spellos, the owner of Squeeky Clean Mobile Car Wash and Detailing, along with his 19-year-old son, Michael, who is the driver, dons a red suit and a fake white beard to visit customers and those in need during the holiday season.
The jolly man gig is all part of Spellos’ “going the extra mile” policy for his mobile detailing business. At Easter time, he and his son become part-time baklava deliverer, bringing the Greek pastries to their most loyal customers, an act which Spellos relishes.
“As much as we love our business, we love our customers even more. It might sound corny, but it’s the truth,” he said.
Working seven days a week
It’s that love that drives Spellos and makes his 8 a.m. to 8 p.m seven-day-a-week schedule seem effortless. “You know how some people look all of their lives for that job or career? Well, if we died today we would be happy with the work we have done and feel like we’ve achieved great things.”
Without a day off, Spellos knows it’s a lot to ask of his son. “It can get a little frustrating because I can’t go to an event or something, but I get over it,” Michael admits. “I would rather be around the cars more than anything.”
The only time they’re not hand washing or detailing cars via their van — which allows them to do everything from shampooing carpets to headlight restoration to leather cleaning and conditioning — is when it rains. The rain, said Spellos, is their least favorite thing about the business. Spellos said they have a certain type of clientele in Virginia Beach who simply don’t get their cars detailed when it’s raining.
But on those rainy days, they make lemonade out of lemons.
“When it does rain we go to a bodyshop and we practice our skills and will help out at the bodyshop. And we have a garage where we’ll do some detailing,” said Spellos.
How it all came about
Spellos, who had experience running a produce business which had one truck, and also worked in family member’s restaurant, was looking for something to do and originally wanted to run something like a hotdog cart or a luncheonette. But his son Michael had another idea. “When I was younger I always hung out with my cousin, who was always into cars… then I hung out with my sister’s friends who were detailing and I just fell in love with it,” said Michael.
“My son looked at me and said, ‘We should try auto detailing.’” Spellos liked the idea as well and immediately got to work to make it happen. “We visited Detail King and we were instantly hooked,” Spellos said. “It was instant gratification in being able to work on the cars — we were hooked like a child gets hooked on candy.”
Michael said his father did ask him to be a part of the business officially. “My dad did ask me to work for him, but it was an obvious answer.”
Since then, the mobile washing and detailing team has won numerous awards. It won second place in the Detail Van of the Year competition at the Mobile Tech Expo in 2007, and the pair won the gold award and was named the best carwash in the Best of Hampton Roads - 2008 Suffolk competition and won the bronze medal for the same competition for Virginia Beach-based carwashes.
The finishing touches
Spellos and his son like their customers to know that they appreciate their business. They give each customer a “thank you” note as well as a free microfiber towel and two mints. They also use brand new microfiber towels and brand new sponges on each vehicle. On top of that, if a customer’s car needs an oil change, they will bring it to the quick lube for them, free of charge.
Giving back is big for the father and son team and they do more than just wash and detail cars and deliver holiday cheer, they also take great pride in being part of the neighborhood and helping out the senior citizens. “Everyone knows us; we get honked at all the time. If we drive down the road people know us when they see us and shout to us,” Spellos said.
If a customer is in need of some extra help around the house, the Spellos’ will step in. “If a senior citizen needs help, we’ll help them. We’ll clean their yards, their garages. We’ve even planted flowers for our senior citizens.”
And, they’re there for each other too. Working with his father, Michael said is fine with him. “It can get hectic, working with my dad, but if we ever disagree on something we get over it and we’re the best of friends.”
Debra Gorgos is the managing editor of Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org