The 2021 Most Valuable Carwasher

The 2021 Most Valuable Carwasher

And the winner is ....

Since 1991, Professional Carwashing & Detailing (PC&D) has asked its readers annually to submit nominations for the title of Most Valuable Carwasher (MVC). This is our magazine’s chance to honor the frontline workers who help keep individual wash locations running and succeeding. When judging what makes a candidate stand out, the editors of PC&D look for a combination of dedication, leadership and an impactful presence at the carwash. 

This year’s MVC has all of these qualities in spades. The PC&D team is pleased to present the 2021 MVC honor to Izzy Aguayo, a site manager for Breeze Thru Car Wash, which has locations in Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming.

Work hard, or it hardly works

Many people who get started in the carwash industry don’t think they’ll stay for long. But it has a way of drawing them in, and the same proved true for Aguayo.

It was 2015, and Aguayo was 18 years old when she started looking for a new job to help her get by. She had previously worked in a warehouse and the food industry, so when she came across the job application for a customer service attendant at Breeze Thru, she thought that if she got the job, it would only be another temporary one.

“[I had] no idea what I was getting myself into,” Aguayo remarks wryly.

Now six years later, Aguayo runs one of the Longmont, Colorado, locations. According to Rhonda Hoffmann, company trainer for Breeze Thru, who was one of two people to nominate Aguayo for this honor, “The site was practically in ruins before she came along. She brought the site back up to speed and inspires the employees to love working there. Her site receives the most positive Google and Yelp reviews of our 11 sites, and the atmosphere she helps curate at the Longmont location is like none other.”

Aguayo attributes two major qualities to making herself successful: hard work and authentic care. Aguayo adds that she owes her sense of hard work, humility and never-give-up attitude to her father, Gus, who she says “has been through some crazy things in life.”

“I look up to him every day and hope to become half the person he is,” she adds. 

However, she is adamant that Breeze Thru has also made an impact on her as a person.

“This company has developed me, pushed me and has been a huge support to myself and my family. I’ve never experienced a company that invests so much into the people. I’m beyond proud to be part of this family,” Aguayo says.

Service with a smile

A typical day for a flex-serve site manager is always different. There’s training and coaching, monitoring operations and wash quality, performing equipment and lot maintenance, completing interior services, filing incident reports and — of course — interacting with customers.

“I have personally observed many a disgruntled customer come to Izzy for help. She takes the time to listen and empathize with her customers and make sure they are taken care of. Many customers even walk out with a smile on their faces,” Hoffmann explains.

While Aguayo’s attitude of authentic care for customers was certainly instrumental in turning her site’s reputation around when she took it on, she’s quick to point out that it wasn’t her efforts alone: It was a massive team effort.

“We couldn’t have done it without the hard work and dedication of each member of this site,” she proclaims. “We lost some but gained stronger [members] and continued to push for excellence. I knew if we wanted the desired change, it was going to require a lot of hard work from all. We made team goals that related to the business and achieved them one at a time together.”

Breeze Thru taught Aguayo that having a positive experience can not only impact the business itself but also people’s lives. As a result, she and her team members strive to create positive memories for their customers with every interaction.

However, it’s not just the customers for whom Aguayo wants to create great memories. It’s those in her community too. One of her most memorable moments while working at Breeze Thru, after all, was in 2019, when the company and her site specifically were able to purchase gifts to give out on Christmas Eve to those at a local safe shelter for domestic violence victims.

“Those moments stand out to me because it was very impactful for the team and kids that received their gifts and helped others in need. It brought our team closer and motivated us to want to do more,” Aguayo recalls. 

I’m listening

On top of the care she shows to customers and the community, Aguayo is always ready to lend a listening ear to her team members.

“Izzy shows a level of unprecedented authentic care. She not only works incredibly hard to keep her site well-run, but she gives her all to ensure that her employees are happy and well taken care of,” Hoffmann says. “It’s more than just a business to her — it’s about the people who work for her. Izzy’s site is a prime example of what happens when you take care of your employees. They are more happy and fulfilled in their roles and more productive because of it.

“When I worked under Izzy, I was struggling in life. Izzy was always there to listen to me and help me improve. She would help me set goals to increase my performance and create a better work environment. The respect I gained for her made me love working there and inspired me to overcome conflicts not only at work but in my personal life as well. Not only did I grow as a person as I worked under her, but I observed multiple others growing too. I attribute much of my development to her.”

According to Hoffmann, even when the site is bustling with customers, and all the staff members are going about their day-to-day activities, Aguayo takes the time to interact with them and check on them. If someone has work or personal concerns, Aguayo will listen, even if it means staying late.

“I have observed those who struggled immensely in their lives being transformed at her site,” Hoffmann says. “There is a light in their eyes again, and they work hard to keep the site running.”

Aguayo spends much of her time developing and training her team as well as helping wherever she’s needed. But she also sets aside plenty of time to help employees with their personal development and goals. For Aguayo, there’s a simple reason as to why she is always ready to stop and listen.

“Not everyone has a support system outside of work or people to share success with, so we try to provide that as best we can. Providing authentic care isn’t only when people are successful but when they are in need of a push or someone to care enough to tell them how it is: acknowledging their strengths and weaknesses and striving for success. Take them for who they are, and push for better. I’ve learned that through my experiences with Breeze Thru. Authentic care comes from the top down, and the owners of this business do a great job of demonstrating that,” Aguayo explains.

Her mentoring and help have certainly paid off. According to Hoffmann, Aguayo is a “manager-making machine”; many of her employees have gone on to become managers at other Breeze Thru locations after being developed under her guidance. “She curates an environment in which you feel excited to come to work. She has always led by example,” Hoffmann adds.

When asked why she thought she had been nominated for MVC, Aguayo concludes, “If I had to guess, I would say it was because of my humility and accountability. Boy, do I make a lot of mistakes, but I make sure to use those mistakes as lessons for myself and others. I push and strive to be better every day and try to help others with that as well.”  

Past MVC award winners

2020: Vaughn Mead, Breeze Thru Car Wash, Fort Collins, CO
2019: Jeff Wagner, Champion Xpress Car Wash, Roswell, NM
2018: Jason LeBlanc, Benny’s Car Wash, Baton Rouge, LA
2017: Noel Saldaña, The Wash Tub, San Antonio, TX
2016: Jose Luis Cruz, Splash Car Wash, Greenwich, CT
2015: Mike Hulburt, Autobell Car Wash, Virginia Beach, VA
2014: Mark Fox, Cornhusker Auto Wash, Bellevue, NE
2013: Elias “Lou” Spellos, Squeeky Clean Mobile Car Wash and Detailing, Virginia Beach, VA
2012: José “Joe” Fernandez, Superior Shine in Covina, CA
2011: Chad Cornell, Crystal Clean Automotive Detailing, Grand Rapids, MI
2010: Sandra Silvestre, Valencia AutoSpa, Valencia, CA
2009: Trudy Carlton, Car Pool LLC, Mechanicsville, VA
2008: Shawn Stevens, Adirondack Car Wash, Queensbury, NY
2007: Aaron Rusbuldt, Shur-Kleen Car Wash, Lacey, WA
2006: Juan Avila, Splash Car Wash, Wilton, CT
2005: Brian Daigle, Willimantic Car Wash, Willimantic, CT
2004: Bob Handt, Mister Car Wash, Roseville, MN
2003: Gary Pendleton, Wilshire West Car Wash, Santa Monica, CA
2002: Casey Bowmaster, Champion Car Wash, Trevose, PA
2001: Roman Zelek, Koziol Car Wash, Chicago
2000: Darold Evans, Sandwich Car Wash, Sandwich, MA
1999: Marcel Vargas, Splash Car Wash, Norwalk, CT
1998: Clifford Mitchell, Bebo’s Car Wash, Mobile, AL
1997: Chalmers “Lefty” Jackson, Jax Kar Wash Inc., Southfield, MI
1996: Michael Garrison, Beaverton Car Wash, Beaverton, OR; and Marjorie E. McNeil, Clarkston Auto Wash Co., Clarkson, MI
1995: Jose Ruiz, Auto Valet Car Wash, Trenton, NJ
1994: G. Walker “Paul” Calisme, Exit 13 Car Wash, Darien, CT
1993: Mark Ellis, Soft Touch Express Wash, Valparaiso, IN
1992: Gary L. Daily, Happy Wheels Inc., Wilmington, DE
1991: Norris Brown, Weiss Guys Car Wash, Phoenix, AZ

Want to learn more? Check out this follow-up interview with Izzy Aguayo!

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