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The king of Queensbury

October 11, 2010
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When Tom Hoffman Jr. decides to build a carwash, you better believe he's going to pull out all the stops. Apparently, mediocre is not a word in Hoffman's vocabulary.

Hoffman recently added a new wash to his list of achievements, which now total 18 locations in New York.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazine visited Hoffman's newest facility in Queensbury, NY — located about 50 miles north of Albany, NY — to find out what the man behind the Hoffman moniker is up to, and what exciting innovations his new site has to offer.

Guts and glory

Hoffman's Queensbury location opened its exterior carwash and in-bay automatic on Dec. 8, 2004, its Jiffy Lube in January, 2005, and its self-serve area in February.

The Northeast is a particularly difficult area to open a full-service carwash, Hoffman explained. Therefore, when choosing what kind of wash to build he knew that he was more interested in focusing on the in-bay automatic and self-serve markets.

Hoffman used his "gut feeling" when choosing his site location; coincidentally, and to Hoffman's benefit, an Applebee's restaurant franchisor and Lowe's hardware store happened to be building in that area as well.

Approximately $5 million later, Hoffman saw his finished product: a site that incorporates ground-breaking technology, advanced water recycling solutions, re-usable oil techniques, a new self-serve site appeal, and the quality service that has secured this site and Hoffman's others as favorites among carwash customers in upstate New York.

Reclaim to fame

With increasing water rates and sewer bills, it's becoming almost a given that a carwash will have a recycling system. However, Hoffman stepped it up a notch with the biological recycling system he installed at his Queensbury site.

Hoffman worked with VERwater Environmental LLC, Salina, KS, on the system that allows the site to use only eight to 10 gallons of fresh water per car rather than the approximate 40 gallons, which might be used at a site without the biological system.

The four settling tanks located beneath the site draw water in and filter it through a hydro-cyclone device. The biological aspect of the system happens when bacteria eats the soaps, dirt and waxes present in the waste-water.

Eventually, a pump takes anything that has settled out and thrusts it into the sewer, leaving the clean water to be moved on for re-use.

Hoffman said that he installed the system to protect his business from future water and sewer fees and drought concerns as water becomes more of a precious and expensive resource.

Oil opportunities

The biological reclaim system isn't the only area of Hoffman's Queensbury site that could be considered environmentally friendly; 15,000 gallons of waste oil are stored at the site and are used to heat the buildings during the winter months.

During the summer months, the site collects and stores the oil from the Jiffy Lube area in six sub-level tanks. A customer who visits the site during the winter may stand in the lobby or bay area and stay warm thanks to the heat provided by the waste oil.

Hoffman chose to install the system at the Queensbury site because he's had tremendous success with it at his busiest wash, located in Saratoga, NY, which only had to purchase fuel once last winter.

The wash was able to meet its energy needs by primarily using waste oil.

Although Hoffman couldn't put a specific price-tag on his storage system, he feels confident that the tanks will essentially pay for themselves the first time they are filled up and used.

Self-serve creativity

Hoffman has made great strides in making the self-serve area of his site stand out from the competition. The Queensbury location has a wide array of new features and technology that enhance the customer's experience.

Hoffman has a second vocation beyond carwash owner; he's also an inventor of sorts.

Hoffman designed and implemented a unique payment system in the self-serve bay area at this location. There is no visible lock; Hoffman explained that if there's a lock inevitably someone's going to try to drill it or cut it.

The façade of the payment area also provides customers with a color coordinated presentation that explains the 10 steps to a great carwash.

Hoffman's system also allows the customer to feel less rushed because the timer counts up. Other systems count the seconds until the customer hits zero, making the customer feel pressured; they have to swipe the card again to add more time or search in their wallet for more money.

With Hoffman's system, the customer swipes their credit card and the timer begins at one and counts up until the customer is finished, at which point they turn the knob to "Stop" and exit the bay. The machine immediately stops charging their account.

Another unique option at the Queensbury site is the air dryers in the self-serve area. According to Hoffman, at other washes, a customer comes in to wash their car and then, if he/she wants to dry it, has to get back into a soaking wet car and be enticed to the blower/vacuum area.

At Hoffman's site, the customer can choose the blower option from the site menu and dry their car in the bay.

According to Hoffman, this option is the fifth most popular choice of the 10 options offered in his bays. It beat out bug remover, wheel scrub, wax, and pre-soak.

Managing it all

With 18 locations from Kingston to Queensbury, NY, Hoffman, Jr. has a lot on his plate. Thankfully, he's devised a way to manage it all; an automated messaging system that sends out alerts concerning certain events at each site.

For instance, if the Queensbury location's total amount of cash onsite reaches $1,000, a text message could be sent to Hoffman's cell phone alerting him to the fact. The system can also be linked to each site manager's phone as well.

Hoffman also knows how much his Queensbury site is averaging per car at the self-serve thanks to the sensors below the bay that count each car.

Carwash creations

It appears that Hoffman can't remain standing still for too long. If he's not building a wash, he's creating new equipment and technology to sell to other washes in the US; adding the title of carwash innovator to his long list of accomplishments.

For a little while anyway, it appears that New York won't be seeing any new Hoffman sites popping up, however that doesn't mean Hoffman hasn't got anything in the works.

After implementing all the new technology and systems at his Queensbury site, Hoffman has decided it's time to bring some of his older sites up to par.

Perhaps this brief pause will give the industry some time to catch up and prepare for the next big project Hoffman will inevitably surprise us with.