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Writing in favor of pet washes

September 12, 2006
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Writing in favor of pet washes
Ken Shorsher

I own the Sudsy Dog Wash, Circle City Java and Splash N Dash Carwash. All three businesses are located in the same building and are cross-marketed to make one neat package of a multi-profit center.

I believe in what I'm doing. I do my homework and research diligently. My father was a pioneer in the self-serve laundry industry and had one of the first self-serve carwashes in Ohio. I have been an airline pilot for 34 years, the last 23 as a captain.

I'm often asked why I chose to bundle together three seemingly miscellaneous businesses?

Well, I wanted a core business supported by other non-related shops. Coffee was a good draw, but I wanted something unique, an attention-getter which could also be cross-marketed. I wanted something that people love.

After cars and coffee, pets came pretty naturally.

The pet wash

The pet wash concept caught my eye in 2004. I was on a layover in Philadelphia and just happened to glance at the evening news on TV in the airport.

The news flashed pictures of a self-serve pet wash at an under-used carwash. The owner was ecstatic.

This novel idea turned his failing carwash into a thriving business. People were driving from as far as 30 miles away to use the pet wash and wash their cars.

I was in the process of building another carwash and I was still thinking up ideas for those extra businesses I told you about. This was the perfect project.

Carwashes are dull by nature. They all have the same ingredients: soap, water, vending machines, and coin changers. But add a pet wash and now you have an intriguing recipe.

I began my search and I saw a self-serve pet wash located in a pet supply business. I took my golden retrievers. It was convenient and the cost was much lower than a dog groomer would charge. The dogs looked and smelled great, no mess for me to clean up and they weren't stressed from the new bathing ritual.

Now could I use the concept in my future plans? Yes, indeed.

I attended the ICA Convention in 2004 and to my delight there was a self-serve pet wash on display. It was a stainless steel tub with coin meter. It featured flea and tick shampoo, conditioner, rinse and a professional dryer. It also had disinfectant for clean-up and customer use prior to the pet bath.

I was so impressed I bought the floor model. I was now the proud owner of a pet wash — but with no place to install it. That mattered little, as I knew the plan would eventually come together.

The installation of my second carwash was complete in July 2005. The site included an Espresso coffee drive-thru, alongside an in-bay automatic wash and the now grounded pet wash.

The P.R.os of running a pet wash

The pet wash garnered a considerable amount of attention and plenty of good public relations around my community.

Not long after it opened, the local NBC news affiliate did a story on the pet wash. Two local newspapers also ran a feature on the service.

Sure, the pet wash is a PR dream, but what are some of the other pros? Well…

  • Low investment and short term payback;

  • Low cost of operation;

  • An attraction and attention getter;

  • Can cross-market other services or businesses;

  • May exceed the revenue of a self serve bay;

  • Low cost for the customer, which promotes repeat business;

  • A great convenience for the customer;

  • Additional vending for pet products (another profit center);

  • It's self-serve, so no attendant required;

  • There's less mess generated than self serve bays; and

  • People love their pets and are willing to spend plenty of money for grooming and care.

Promotions & maitenance

At Sudsy Dog, we offer a free wash to rescue dogs. We are also planning a benefit for the SPCA and Humane Society. Many police officers from neighboring communities wash their official police dogs at our wash. We offer senior citizen discounts, as well.

As far as maintenance concerns, we find very little, if any, canine feces around the premises. The pooper scooper is rarely used. In over two years of operation, we have yet to have a problem from a pet.

I have plans for an additional pet wash station at this location. I also have plans to convert one my self-serve bays at my other carwash location.

I believe this says it all: I'm so pleased with the success of my pet wash, I'm ready to do it all over again at my other location.

Ken Shorsher has been in the carwash industry for 8 years. He gives thanks to his father, his airline career, and his wife for the knowledge he has acquired to be successful. For more information on Ken's pet wash success, e-mail him at shorco1@aol.com.