Profile in success: Third time’s a charm
There’s an old saying that good luck comes in threes. When considering movie trilogies, the Three Stooges and Neapolitan ice cream, you realize anyone could easily create a long list of enjoyable trios. Now, in Jacksonville, FL, there’s another group of three that can be added to the list — CarbuX Car Washes.
When planning their third CarbuX Car Wash, father and son Jimmy and Andrew Jaffa knew that they wanted the carwash to be energy efficient and eco-friendly. They called upon their experiences with their first two washes, and they brainstormed new ways to conserve energy and resources. The efficient new wash, which opened in April, is an exterior express tunnel with vacuums that includes a detail building for an automated polisher. Also, the property features a trio of its own — a three-bay oil lube leased to Texaco Xpress Lube.
After all the planning and preparation, the Jaffa’s third wash ended up following the trio of steps to conservation: Reduce, reuse and recycle. The Jaffas reduce energy consumption at the new wash by using LED and fluorescent lighting. Next, they reuse wash water by capturing it in a water reclaim system. Finally, they recycle by, well, recycling.
The Jaffas decided to start their recycling efforts with their customers. The carwash has special recycle bins marked for the plastic bottles and aluminum cans that customers clean out of their cars. Andrew said that he and the wash employees remove the bottles and cans from the small garbage containers located at each vacuum spot.
The location has a 10-by-10-by-6-foot dog pen where the recycle bags are collected and picked up by a recycling company. Andrew said, according to the recycling company, CarbuX recycles more than any other business in Jacksonville. “It’s truly amazing how much we recycle,” Andrew noted. “We’re very proud of our efforts and the commitment of our employees and customers.”
But the recycling doesn’t stop with the plastic bottles and aluminum cans. The carwash recycles all chemical containers and wooden pallets, and there is even a recycle dumpster for cardboard recycling. The Jaffas are so committed to recycling that they even incorporated the recycling symbol into their new carwash logo.
Reducing and reusing
To help reduce energy usage, the Jaffas chose efficient LED and fluorescent lighting for different areas of the carwash. As for lighting the tunnel, they decided to let Mother Nature do most of the work. “The tunnel has a translucent ceiling, so during the day the tunnel is completely lit by the sun,” Andrew said.
In addition, the wash reuses water through its water reclaim system. Jimmy said the wash has both an Aqua Chem water reclaim system as well as an additional system that Jimmy developed on his own to help produce cleaner post-wash water. They also control the water flow so that the wash uses more of the reclaim water for high pressure, and they adjust their valving to use the reclaim water more efficiently.
Finding the location
The Jaffas said it took them years to find the perfect spot for their newest carwash. A Wal-Mart was constructed in the Jacksonville area, and it included an area for a gas station in front of the store. The area ended up sitting empty because Wal-Mart decided not to construct the fueling facility.
The Jaffas approached Wal-Mart about buying the property in 2007. “They originally said no,” Jimmy explained. “They didn’t want a carwash in front of the building.” The Jaffas approached Wal-Mart again in 2009 after the recession hit, and they were finally able to purchase the property in 2010.
The most visible way the location affected the carwash is in the design of the building itself. Jimmy said the building does not look like a traditional tunnel carwash. “It fits more in with the design of the outparcels that are here in the area,” he said. “We had design criteria that we had to include to be accepted in the area.”
Fitting the footprint, getting it built
Since the lot was smaller than their first two locations, they knew that the carwash would need a smaller footprint. Jimmy said there is a trend developing in the carwash industry of building washes on smaller pieces of property. With the newest CarbuX wash, Jimmy said the property size dictated what type of equipment could be used in the wash, and it dictated how the carwash was laid out as well.
Being that necessity is the mother of all inventions, the lot size even affected the carwash’s vacuum stations as well. Andrew said there was not much room for parking on the property, and they wanted to better control how long customers were allowed to use the free vacuums stations. Today, most express carwashes offer vacuums to customers in one of two ways: either a free vacuum available with a wash, or restricted usage with change or tokens. “We came up with a third way,” Andrew said. “We use a bar code.”
A bar code automatically prints with each wash purchase. “It’s the first of its kind,” Andrew said. “It’s a very unique system, and it works better than we anticipated.” The printed bar code is only good at the time of purchase, and it can’t be used again. The least expensive wash comes with five minutes of vacuum time, and the more expensive washes come with more vacuum time. If customers want extra vacuum time, they have to pay for it. “It’s interesting watching people vacuum their vehicle with this new system. Since they know that the vacuum is run by a timer, they tend to vacuum their vehicle much faster than at our other washes that are not timed. And the best part of the system is that as soon as they back up and leave, the vacuum automatically shuts off. This is definitely the vacuum system of the future,” Andrew said.
“I’ve been a developing and building in Jacksonville for over 40 years,” Jimmy said. “I was a homebuilder for many years, and we are also in the self storage business.” Jimmy built his first carwash because he was looking for a business with less competition where the barrier for entry was higher. “The self storage business (has) a very low barrier for entry,” Jimmy said. “And the home building business was getting very competitive, especially with the national firms coming into our community. I was looking for a business (that was) more unique and a little different.”
Over the previous four decades as a builder in Jacksonville, Jimmy had developed a rapport with the local banks. Even so, he still found it very difficult to secure financing for the new wash due to the sluggish economy. “It just took a long time to get financing,” he said. “We probably talked to 15 or 20 different banks before we found one that would lend us money.” Jimmy said it did help that his first two carwashes were successful. But the construction loan was still the most difficult part of the process to finalize.
One way the Jaffas have found to remain competitive in the carwash market is by offering an exclusive monthly wash club to their customers. The wash club helps the carwash bring in revenue even when the weather is bad. Andrew said this guaranteed revenue helps with the wash’s operations and labor costs.
“Today we’re closed because it’s raining, but we’ll be charging 30 or more people,” Andrew said. “If you sign up on the fourth, you’ll be billed on the fourth.” CarbuX Car Wash only offers one wash club which is for their top wash and is valid at all three of their locations.