Last month, Professional Carwashing & Detailing Online set out to find the biggest story of 2007. We scoured over our online archives and old news releases to select the stories that in our opinion represented the ten most influential events of the year.
The results of the reader poll are available on www.carwash.com.
Mister packs a punch
Let’s start from the very beginning. On March 21, Mister Car Wash was acquired by ONCAP, a private equity firm based in Canada and owned by Onex Corporation, one of Canada’s largest corporations.
Five months later, Mister purchased its first carwash under the direction of ONCAP; Don’s Car Wash in Columbia Heights, MN.
In late October, Mister acquired Waterworks Car Wash in Rochester, MN, giving the company two carwashes, three fast lubes and a detail center. A few weeks later, the company purchased Car Wash Headquarters with eight carwashes spread throughout Florida, Alabama and Texas. The deal made the chain the second largest conveyor carwash chain in America, surpassing family-owned Autobell.
Ten days later, Mister opened its newest store in Houston, TX. Then, on Dec. 20, Mister signed a deal to purchase Vintage Car Wash chain in El Paso, TX, giving the chain nine more carwashes and seven more fast lubes for a grand total of 60 carwashes, 24 fast lube shops and three convenience stores in seven states. In 2007 alone, the chain added 21 carwashes.
Wash Depot awakes
With all the attention on Mister’s climb to the top, it was easy to forget there was already a solid chain holding the number one slot. Wash Depot had been a quiet operator since March 2005, when it last acquired a carwash.
That changed on Nov. 14, two days before Mister Car Wash closed on the deal that would make it the second largest conveyor carwash chain in America. On that day, Wash Depot signed its own deal to purchase four Florida carwashes from Mace Securities International, Inc.
“We’re very happy to have a new region to come on board with Wash Depot. And our strategy will be to grow the company going forward 10 to 20 percent a year,” Pete Nani, director of operations for Wash Depot, told PC&D Online in a Nov. 20 telephone interview.
The sleeping giant had awoke. The chain now stands at 76 locations, 16 more sites than second-place Mister Car Wash.
The California sweeps
On Jan. 1, SB 1468 went into effect in California, extending the repeal date of the Car Wash Industry compliance program. The program requires carwashes to be registered with the state, post a bond and keep complete records on the hours and pay of all employees.
The state wasted no time. On March 23, investigators with California’s Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition (EEEC) turned up 33 citations, totaling $323,400, after visiting 20 carwash establishments in Los Angeles County.
The investigations continued with a two-day sweep in Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties. On May 20, the EEEC announced they had issued 33 citations during their latest raid in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
In July, investigators inspected 19 carwashes and issued 33 citations, totaling $548,150 in Orange County. In September, the EEEC returned to Los Angeles County.
The most common citations issued in the sweeps were for avoiding labor, tax and licensing laws. Today, after nearly 100 investigations, the total amount owed to the state well surpasses $1,000,000.
The Brown Bear Study
On April 19, a few short weeks after Vic Odermat, founder and president of the family-owned Brown Bear Car Wash chain, was named to the Car Wash Hall of Fame at Car Care World Expo, PC&D Online reported that Brown Bear had commissioned a study by Environmental Partners, Inc. that proved residential and parking lot charity carwashes were harmful to the environment.
The study later became the focus of PC&D’s September cover story, “Driver Ed,” and was also published in the September/October issue of Stormwater, a journal for surface water quality professionals.
In December, The Wall Street Journal reported the surging environmental movement was motivating some towns and counties to ban charity (parking lot) and home carwashing. One movement in particular (started in King County, WA) was connected to the Brown Bear Study. Countless others may be spurned from its findings.
Drought strikes the southeast
It was a mixed-bag for carwash operators in Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama this year as drought caused both long lines and alarming government restrictions.
In Birmingham, AL, 44 carwashes that did not recycle water were closed and then re-opened in July under city restrictions. A few weeks later, a water shortage also closed carwashes that did not recycle water in Wilsonville, AL.
Meanwhile, in Creedmore, NC, all commercial carwashes were closed and residential washing banned due to a local drought. But elsewhere in North Carolina, operators were happy to see long lines made up of residents banned from washing at home.
Then, on Oct. 18, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley forbid state employees from washing state-owned vehicles and called upon all state residents to stop using water for non-essential uses — including both professional and non-professional carwashing.
In Georgia, operators and vendors decided to start a state association under the umbrella of the Southeast Car Wash Association in order to deal with drought in the state.
Come December, drought was still crippling North Carolina and Alabama carwashes. In Wake Forest, NC, the town commission was denying permits for new carwashes because of present concerns about drought. In Goldsboro, NC, carwashes that did not reduce water usage had elevated water bills. Still, many carwashes in North Carolina and Georgia reported high volumes during the drought, despite local or state restrictions.
Mace drops out
Mace Security International, Inc. started its descent from the carwash industry in 2006, but it was realized in 2007 when the company sold 12 Arizona properties, three Northeast properties and two Texas properties in May, and four Florida properties in December. The company was officially out of the Northeast in August.
A consolidator from the late 1990s, at one-time the publicly-traded company owned as many as 58 carwash locations. Today, the company has 19 carwashes for sale in Florida and Texas.
Mr. Clean opens
One of the most anticipated grand openings in carwash history, Procter & Gamble, finally cut the ribbon on its first Mr. Clean Car Wash on Aug. 18. PC&D was on the scene for the ceremony in Deerfield Township, OH, but we witnessed a slow start.
A few months later, PC&D attended the grand opening of the second Mr. Clean Car Wash in Evendale, OH, on Oct. 27. The second wash faced dismal weather conditions for its celebratory first day, but patrons still turned up to the 8,900-square-foot carwash for a turn at having their picture taken with Mr. Clean.
Procter & Gamble has not yet said whether it will pursue a national chain, although the first two sites are being considered a test run.
Arkansas Carwash Systems, owner of Boomerang Carwash, a carwash chain that started out of the ashes of Rapido Rabbit, was acquired on Valentine’s Day 2007 by Drive Clean Holding, sparking even more interest in the fledgling express exterior franchise program.
In April, the company opened its first location under Drive Clean’s control. It was the company’s fifth carwash in Oklahoma City, and 17th overall.
Growth continued in August when the company opened its sixth Oklahoma City, carwash. With 18 carwashes, the company is poised to make its debut on PC&D’s Top 50 list (published in May) as the 17th largest conveyor carwash chain in the nation.
Mark VII switches it up
It was a year of taking control and making changes for Mark VII, the U.S. subsidiary of WashTec AG, a global carwash equipment supplier based in Germany.
For starters, the company acquired its long-time distributor Mid-Tenn Mark VII, Inc. of Lebanon, TN, on Jan. 11, and then restructured its senior management.
A few months later, the company acquired another distributor, Aqua-Pro Car Wash Systems in Texas, and then signed SourceONE as a distributor for the state of Arkansas.
Then came August, when Mark VII announced it would directly sell and service its equipment in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. A management change at the former Northeast distributor prompted the two companies to mutually not renew their contract.
Three months later, Johnna Boyd, former owner of Aqua-Pro Car Systems, was named Strategic Product Manager. And finally, wrapping up a year of dynamic change, Craig Campbell accepted a position at parent company WashTec AG’s headquarters in Augsburg, Germany. The former vice president of strategic accounts and product development became WashTec’s director of business development for distributor markets.
As a global environmental awareness movement pushed forward, waterless carwash products appeared in droves last year. New products debuted in drought-stricken Australia, green-conscious Europe and also in America.
Some products promoted convenience, others claimed to be organic solutions, while still others marketed toward consumers looking to conserve water.
Ecowash Mobile, an Australian waterless franchise, opened its first European franchise in southeastern France in March. A month later, Eco Touch, a waterless product created in Australia, debuted in America.
In May, Miracle Drywash, a waterless carwash product, was awarded the Waterwise Marque at the annual Waterwise Water Efficiency Conference.
In September, Ecoshine Auto Spa, a waterless carwash, opened in Arizona.
Then in November, Ecowash Mobile, the Australian waterless franchise, opened a location in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada Water Authority agreed to promote the business on its website. Two days later, Green Earth Waterless Carwash announced it would sell its product at a Whole Foods Market in Santa Monica, CA.
And finally, in December, Green Earth Waterless Carwash said it would move into the drought-stricken Georgia market. A week later, the final waterless product of 2007 debuted: Splendor Carwash is based in San Deigo, and available to consumers via the Internet.