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Business Operations

What's in your wash?

October 11, 2010
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Welcome to MILES Autospa, www.milesautospa.com, in the heart of Cool Springs, Tennessee. MILES, celebrating its four month anniversary, is the brainchild of Miles Johnson.

Tony Lane, general manager of operations, is responsible for the overall day to day operation of MILES. Mike Gillespie, director of sales, is responsible for all aftermarket sales such as high performance wheels, exhaust and suspension upgrades, as well as the resident garage specialist.

Diving into the industry
Prior to opening the carwash, Johnson was a 17-year wireless telecom veteran. Combined with his love of all things cars and the keen knowledge of an area needing a carwash, Johnson put his plan to work, opening on Feb. 22.

“It wasn’t necessarily difficult to get into the industry, but it was a bit daunting,” said Johnson. When he spoke with consultants, he felt there was a guarded knowledge that every operator needs to know.

“Gaining the right amount of knowledge up front to determine weather or not you were making a good decision to go into the industry, was the most difficult part,” said Johnson.

Operating in a high per-capita income and growth-rate area, MILES offers a unique line-up of services to all of its customers. In addition to being a high-end carwash, MILES is an automobile accessory retailer and home garage makeover/ organization business. Fortunate for Johnson, his business is surrounded by car dealerships, allowing vehicle owners and leasees to retain that new car look and smell.

The 8,300-sq.-ft. facility is located on a corner lot of 1 1/2 acres and offers a variety of carwashing options are available for the carwash customer, ranging from the express exterior wash to a through detail service.

The three-car-sized detail garage (31’ x 33’) offers ultimate detailing services and features a retail showroom for their home garage products. Johnson said he’s already performed complete custom garage installations.

Glass windows (approx. 9’ tall) are used to separate the detail bays from the lobby so customers can view the detailing process and view the custom garage showroom at the same time.

Suds and solutions
MILES features three lanes at the carwash. The outside lane is express exterior, offering several wash choices. The inside two lanes are full-service, with the $29 full-service package leading the popularity race.

Express detail packages follow the same simplistic structure: $49 for inside, $49 for outside or a combination of the two for $79. Johnson happily says he sees a higher take rate on express detail than anticipated.

Johnson said his wash has been successful because “express detail is priced very competitively and it’s featured very prominently.” Express detail services are performed under the cool shade of an awning at the carwash.

Customers enjoy watching the “detailing show,” said Johnson. While this unique display option may not be viable year-round in select locations, it does strike the idea flint in gathering customer attention.

To choose carwash and detail price-points, Johnson looked at pricing all over the country, and borrowed ideas from past businesses, such as bundling. What he noticed was the pricing between $29-30 “sweet spot,” as Johnson coins it, was loaded with a lot of value.

Just as in carwashes across the country, weather plays a major part in daily success. Even the threat of rain may close the wash, indicated Johnson. The first few days of March were unseasonably warm and the wash was very successful. Once the rain came and the weather cooled a bit, customer visits slowed down.

Being a new carwash operator, Johnson said the biggest challenge is not getting sucked into the small things that eat up time and cost money. Because of his unfamiliarity with lingo and tools among other things carwash,”having to lean on other people’s opinions and learning a new process is daunting,” said Johnson.

Future offerings
Although the carwash is still new, Johnson said it is meeting the expectations that were laid out in the planning stations. Long term, Johnson would like to see three to four locations in or around the Nashville area.

From a visual and conceptual perspective, Johnson said he has already been approached from larger corporations who are interested in franchising the location. “If we get enough operating expertise, we can turn a profit at this one and it looks like something we can duplicate, we would certainly be interested,” said Johnson.