Ice, ice baby
Randy Coleman is the vice president of Jim Coleman Co./Hanna, a manufacturer of automatic and self-serve carwash equipment based in Houston, working in the domestic and international sales department. Randy recently spoke with Professional Carwashing & Detailing® and let us in on how his company has gotten through tough economic times in the past and how it will survive and persevere in the future.
Professional Carwashing and Detailing: You’ve been in business a long time. The economy has been rather challenging lately. How are you staying afloat?
Randy Coleman: Challenging times, yes… crippling times, no! To succeed, one must change. The Coleman boys knew that. The three of us [brother Russell is president of the company, while brother Wayne is the vice president of production] grew up watching our father Jim Coleman, an electrical engineer, buy his first carwash, started making the equipment to improve the quality of the wash at his own site and then started selling that equipment to others in the industry. In 1996, the boys wanted more! We put our sights on two people that could help bring about change and growth. Bobby Keith was added to help develop the electronics portion of the business and in 1998 Jerry Truelove was added to help develop the in-bay automatic line. Still not completely satisfied, in 2005, Jim Coleman Co. purchased Hanna Carwash Systems in order to manufacture full conveyor and express tunnel equipment and provide product to an even broader segment of the industry. Unlike much of our competition, Jim Coleman Co. is unique in that we manufacture equipment crossing the three main wash segments: In-bay automatics, conveyors and self serves. If one segment takes a downturn we still have opportunities for supplying the marketplace with the balance of our line.
PC&D: So, would you say you’re optimistic about succeeding during this time?
Randy Coleman: After a two-year period of modest growth, the Coleman boys remain optimistic. We keep our creative juices flowing by looking to the future for opportunities of growth. For example, expanding into the c-store market. Fueling and carwashing has always been a very good partnership. An interesting picture of our family carwash in Houston back in 1972 reflects customers lined up for the automatic bay with an opportunity to fill-up their gas tanks while they wait. You can’t help but look at this picture without noticing the price of gas at $0.27 gallon
PC&D: What current trends are happening in the c-store market that we should know about?
Randy Coleman: C-store and carwash operators have many opportunities to diversify. One strategy we’ve seen work well is to move the bulk ice and water sales to a vending environment. It’s virtually eliminating problems of theft. Commercial businesses such as construction workers, plumbers, landscapers, etc., will bring refillable containers to Mr. Zippy’s [a Coleman brand ice vending kiosk] to fill up on water and run into the c-store for lunch items to get them through the day. The consumer is out there filling up gas tanks, coolers and on snack items and they want to do it all at the same time, it just makes sense. While the Colemans are still deeply entrenched in driving JCC’s carwash business forward, we are clearly excited about expanding into c-store operations with in-bay automatics, express tunnels and ice and water vending.
PC&D: What is JCC’s strategy towards the c-store industry?
Randy Coleman: Jim Coleman Co./Hanna has been working with a number of very successful c-store carwash operators with great success in tunnel carwashes as well as in-bay automatics. In addition to the carwashes we are helping the c-store operators move the ice and bulk water sales to a vending machine. This has eliminated the problems of people stealing ice while bringing the refillable container water sales to there locations.
PC&D: What are some of the hurdles c-store/carwash owners and operators can face?
Randy Coleman: You need managers capable of attending to the retail c-store requirements and the carwash requirements. The c-store requires retail and customer interaction. The carwash requires equipment operations as well a clean washing bay.