Welcome to Coastal Auto Spa and Oil Lube, on the water-front of Ruskin, FL. Michelle Barnes and business partner Beverly Williams opened the carwash earlier this year, for Williams’ son, Stephen, and son-in-law Daron Ward. After being in business together for twelve years, Barnes and Williams felt they had enough compassion and customer service experience to open a successful business.
Prior to opening the carwash, Barnes and Williams operated a company that provided services to developmentally disabled adults. This business helps move adults with mental disabilities out of state institutions and/or group homes and into the community in their own apartments.
The carwash property was bought in October 2005, the site permit was granted in July 2006, and a groundbreaking celebration was held a few months later in August.
Land and site work for Coastal Auto Spa was close to $1 million, and building costs were $900,000. After the basics, another $350,000 was spent on equipment. After all was said and done, a total of $2.25 million was invested in the carwash to realize the dream: a carwash with a Key West tropical feel.
How does the carwash feature Key West flair? The roof of the building follows typical architecture of the area: metal roofing adorned with a cupola, rocking chairs scattered on the front porch and the inside features bread-board wainscoting and a chair rail. The interior and exterior are painted in bright, cheerful colors.
Taking the plunge into the carwash market was a pleasant experience for the owners. “I met a lot of people who are more than happy to share their opinions with me, from vendors to owners in the carwash industry who had their own opinions,” Ruskin explained.
“I found my peers very willing to share their advice and experiences. I tried to take what I thought were best ideas from all the people I came in contact with and put my own spin on them.”
Ruskin, FL is a high per-capita income area, and the carwash offers the residence a unique line-up of services to accommodate anyone who drives or walks in. The carwash’s mission statement hangs proudly in the lobby and reads, “Our mission is to provide quality products and services to you and your vehicle. We are committed to providing prompt, professional, friendly, and courteous services in a safe, clean and respectful environment. This is our mission from our family to yours.”
Coastal Auto Spa sits on over two acres of land, and has the space to accommodate just about any size automobile. The carwash also has a variety of carwashing options that range from $11.99 to $29.99, with the $23.99 package leading in popularity. The carwash also features a 26x30 detailing bay where motorcycles, boats, and all other PWC (personal watercrafts) can be detailed.
The carwash tunnel is the longest throughout the entire Tampa Bay area and is 100’ in length. An impact resistant glass window measuring 4x8 feet separates the carwash and the gift shop so that customers can relax inside and watch their cars go through the tunnel.
If customers are interested in shopping, eating or relaxing, the carwash is the place to be. Customers can browse a unique selection of hand-carved and painted artwork, sip a complimentary coffee or cappuccino, or snack on popcorn.
Customers interested in kicking back their feet can sit outside on a rocking-chair and listen to the Margaretville station playing everyday. “What we are going for is comfort,” said Barnes.
Hiring employees was a breeze. Shortly after the “Now Hiring” sign was hung in the window, over 70 applications were received. After sifting out potential candidates, 47 people were interviewed and a staff of 35 employees was assembled. The carwash plans to use the full staff during the busy times of the year, and 25 employees for the slower months.
Looking back, Barnes is pleased with the progress the wash has made. “The construction was the easy part, the challenging part is now just beginning: managing the employees and pleasing the customers.”