You’d be hard-pressed to find a camel anywhere in Nashville, Tennessee — even at the zoo. After all, camels are native to only two regions in the world — far and away from anywhere in North America. According to National Geographic, the single-humped dromedary (or Arabian) camel has been domesticated in the deserts of Northern Africa and Southwestern Asia, while the dual-humped Bactrian camel roams both domesticated and wild in the rocky deserts of Central and East Asia.
It’s these very humps that allow them to survive the arid conditions in which they live. The hump of the Arabian camel, for instance, can store up to 80 pounds of fat, which can break down into water and energy when sustenance is not available, allowing them to travel up to 100 desert miles without water. Amazingly, when camels do get to quench their thirst, they are able to drink up to 30 gallons in only 13 minutes, if they are extremely thirsty.
However, the exotic camel features proudly at one Nashville locale: Camel Express Car Wash. Water conservation similarities aside, just how did a camel wind up as the mascot?
Leaders of the herd
Read Hauck, owner and managing partner of Camel Express Car Wash, was scared to death of carwashes as a young boy, he says, and did not want his own children to experience those same feelings. However, his quest in 2013 and 2014 to find a kid-friendly carwash in Nashville did not yield the desired results. Not only could he not find such a carwash, but those that were in the area also appeared to be in great need of improvement. His solution? He decided to open his own.
Hauck sought to make the most kid-friendly atmosphere he could, part of which included creating a mascot. For Hauck, the camel lent itself to being an animal that kids would enjoy, and being able to tie it in with the water conservation aspect of a professional carwash was an added bonus. As a result, Camel Express Car Wash — and its mascot, Clyde — came to be in 2015.
Three years later, Hauck partnered with Tyler Slaughter to help run the carwash. Slaughter started out in the carwash industry in 2006 as the first employee of Car Wash Express, an express exterior carwash located in Athens, Alabama.
Over the next 11 years, Slaughter helped grow the carwash into a chain of seven locations spread across North Alabama, which Mister Car Wash then acquired in late 2017. After spending a few months working as a regional manager for Mister Car Wash, Slaughter decided in 2018 to join Hauck as a partner and operations director at Camel Express.
“I’m extremely blessed to have worked for a small company for such a long time, but Mister Car Wash purchasing us was probably one of the best changes in my life,” Slaughter says. “I got to learn the big business side of carwashing, including more in-depth knowledge of financials; new interviewing, onboarding and management processes; a lot of new technology; [and] being my own boss for my region — and that’s why they’ve been so successful at scaling to over 300 sites. I apply everything I’ve learned my entire career to Camel, and that’s what’s made us so successful.”
A journey to seek the experience
Slaughter attributes much of Camel Express’ success to serving up an experience that customers — kids especially — will not forget.
“We believe that in today’s marketplace, the industry overlooks the customer experience, and that is one of our primary focus areas. Carwashing should be fun, and it is up to the owners/operators to make it that way,” Slaughter says.
To set itself apart from the rest of its competition, Camel Express is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and puts on some eye-popping LED light shows in the tunnel that are awash with bright and engaging colors. The carwash also features 21 free self-serve vacuums under sleek, modern canopies to keep the hot summer sun off customers’ heads (because unlike camels, humans do sweat).
For the kids, there’s even a Bactrian camel statue sitting on the property by the name of Curtis, whose main purpose is to pose for pictures. Camel Express also goes the extra mile for children who love the carwash and want to know more. By simply emailing the team to ask, a child can get a behind-the-scenes tour.
After all, the foremost of Camel Express’ four articulated values is putting family first. The second value is fun, which comes with the territory when your mascot is a camel. After all, if you’ve seen the GEICO commercial, you know what a camel’s favorite day is. It’s Hump Day, and Camel Express makes sure customers know it with its Hump Day special of buy one wash get one half off.
“We are unique because we dare to challenge the status quo with everything we do,” Slaughter proclaims. “We focus a lot on our team members, the feel-good factor of the site for customers as well as making sure that we have a positive impact in the community.”
Camel Express’ mission statement is, “Helping people shine inside and out,” and its Golden Rule is, “By serving others, we are able to serve a higher purpose.” As such, Camel Express not only seeks to help its own customers, but it also serves the community. Camel Express has found several ways to get involved, whether by working with the homeless, purchasing uniforms for local sports teams or even just helping its own team members afford dental work. At its next grand opening, for instance, Camel Express is partnering with Music Health Alliance, whereupon 100% of the proceeds for the event will go towards helping to provide medical care to those who struggle to put food on the table and cannot afford proper healthcare.
“Every single day, we look for more and more opportunities to get involved in the Nashville community and to do good things for other people around us, no matter the cost,” Slaughter explains.
An oasis of expertise
The other two values that Camel Express espouses are transparency and innovation. For Slaughter, much of that innovation is simply a result of talking with the carwash community.
Allan Branch and Jimmy Branch, owner of Speedy Car Wash in Panama City, Florida, originally started a website called TalkCarWash, which is a 24/7 live advice group consisting of carwash operators from all over the world. In 2017, they created a Facebook group as a spinoff of the website. That’s when Slaughter got involved.
“With my passion and love for the carwash industry, I got behind it and messaged everyone I knew to try to ramp the members and conversations up. We went from 11 people to now over 7,600 in two years, and we are growing rapidly,” Slaughter, who is now an administrator of the group, says.
TalkCarWash is a virtual forum for carwash operators, allowing them to ask questions of others, debate the pros and cons of different carwash products and equipment (salespeople from carwash companies can also promote their products) and post job openings.
This group is a reminder that the carwash industry is special — that even potential competitors can help each other out. And it’s by coming together in this way and bouncing ideas off people that true innovation occurs.
“TalkCarWash has provided me and hundreds of other members with an unlimited amount of carwash knowledge to any and every question we could possibly have,” Slaughter affirms. “The page has been vital to the success of multiple operators that I know with unlimited [programs], maintenance, processes, procedures and just generally blowing off steam.”
Slaughter also joined the Leadership Worth Following (LWF) group in 2018. LWF is a leadership program for the carwash industry focused on identifying influential actions that result in positive outcomes. The goal of the group is to “identify individuals with the desire to enhance the carwash industry and discover actionable items via mentorship that result in positive impact,” according to Slaughter.
“The six other members of LWF are like family to me,” he says. “They not only help me professionally, but we all know each other’s personal life. We talk at least a few dozen times a day, and we each hold one another accountable for everything we do. It’s impacted me mostly in my carwash life. I’ve improved the overall way I carwash day to day and the way I treat and train others around me.”
With a community of ideas backing the partners of Camel Express, it’s no wonder that Hauck and Slaughter have big plans ahead. Camel Express currently has two additional locations under construction with at least four to six more planned for the near future.
“Our future plans are to continue to build out locations around Nashville where we can help great talent build careers. We truly have a passion for our people and communities, and we will continue to make sure our focus stays on always taking care of them,” Slaughter concludes.