Featured Profile: Carnation Auto Spa

Featured Profile: Carnation Auto Spa

Rides get revived at these luxury carwashes.

Sponsored by Car Wash Advisory

Sure, there are a lot of great carwashes out there, but sometimes a vehicle just needs a trip to the spa.

Carnation Auto Spa, located in Dallas, Texas, is a customer-service-oriented luxury carwash company. Instead of receiving facials, massages or pedicures, Carnation Auto Spa customers can have their mats shampooed, receive hand-applied wax and have their floorboards blown out.

Carnation Auto Spa is known throughout the Dallas area for its variety of indulgent vehicle interior and exterior wash treatments, including The Ultimate Care and The Carnation offerings. The Carnation comprises of not only their Ultimate exterior treatment but also rubber mat cleaning; interior conditioner; a mini detail; seat, dash, door and console cleaning; leather conditioner; and more. Three out of the four exterior wash packages include a hand towel dry service by the employees and the top two wash packages include hand-applied tire shine.

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That personal touch from the employees is essential to Carnation’s success. Since the business launched in 2021, it has accumulated a 4.5/5-star rating on Google at each of its facilities, as well as numerous positive reviews praising the great service and friendly, careful employees.

With every trip to the auto spa, customers can expect to be greeted by smiling employees who show eagerness to assist them at each of the modern, clean facilities.

And for those who prefer to use the resources to do it themselves, Carnation Auto Spa also offers multiple self-service stations.

“Service First”

Backed by a boutique private-equity firm called Iron Skillet Partners in Dallas, Carnation bloomed into a premium carwashing company. When launching the brand, Drew Shepard, an operating partner at Iron Skillet Partners and a principal of Carnation Auto Spa, says he had the intention of creating a luxury brand with unbeatable, top-tier service.

The secret to his success? A great service and management team.

“Our management team is second to none,” Shepard says.

While some businesses may only express concern over profits and losses, Shepard believes in attention to quality service to ensure a positive experience for the customer when visiting the carwash.

“Carnation is different because we are ‘service first’ as an organization,” he says.

If the customer comes in with a child or pet, Shepard assures his team will please by offering a lollipop and/or pet treat. And, if they’re waiting on a detail or other spa service, customers can help themselves to free donuts, Starbucks coffee and bottled water. They can sit back and relax in air-conditioned lounges, while the Carnation team works on achieving a squeaky clean, full sweep of their car.

As any carwash can have the right equipment, tools, materials and locations, it’s that extra attention to detail that sets businesses apart from the rest. Shepard shows his pride in the attentiveness of Carnation’s service professionals.

“We maintain the same operating margins as our national pure express competitors, but we provide a service level they simply cannot compete with,” he boasts.

Continuous Expansion

As the market continues to rise and fall, there’s no ignoring the unequivocal impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the carwashing industry.

However, Shepard says, during the time when the world was just beginning to snap back into place, Carnation Auto Spa’s growth took off. The company grew from one location to its current number of sites — 21 all located in the Dallas/Fort Worth area — from 2021 to 2022.

He also notes that six of Carnation’s current locations are experiencing big changes through capital projects. Currently, the location in Southlake is undergoing a conversion of the layout from full-service to express and will reopen this fall.

The company is also adding or updating vacuuming bays on several of its sites. Furthermore, four other sites are undergoing the addition of full-tunnel equipment overhauls.

All locations undergoing construction and updating are projected to be finished by Q2, 2024.

With the continuous success and growth of this company, Shepard recognizes the importance of investing it back into the business, such as through updating and improving the overall experience at every location and expanding the business by acquiring more sites.

“Future growth will come from additional site acquisitions and integration into the Carnation Auto Spa brand,” he says. “We see first-hand the value we create as a site integrates onto our platform, and the money invested into a new site generates a positive return day one.”

Prioritizing Employees

While a company grows, so must its number of employees, and the pandemic made a distinct effect on many people’s professional lives.

Nowadays, most job-seekers want a more flexible schedule with competitive pay. But that’s not an issue at Carnation Auto Spa. Shepard makes sure to stay on top of his employees’ needs.

“We take great pride in providing [our employees] best-in-industry wages and incentivize them transparently based on their direct contribution to the organization,” Shepard says. “As a result of that, we have faced very little turnover at a time when labor competition is stronger than ever.”

Shepard shows his appreciation toward his team, and he expresses his gratitude in being able to provide substantial pay and a positive working environment to his employees.

“I am excited to continue our growth and provide living wages and benefits to our 500+ existing employees and their families, as well [as] watching how many more people we will be able to provide steady and secure employment to,” he says.

Making an Impact Today for Tomorrow

Not only does Shepard prioritize the needs of his customers and employees, he also expresses his excitement for Carnation’s partnership with the American Cancer Society and their “Road to Recovery” pledge, a volunteer-based rideshare program that allows cancer patients to receive rides to and from treatment.

Because it is so important to maintain cleanliness as a volunteer who may be assigned to someone who is immune-compromised, Carnation will, in turn, donate carwash memberships to each volunteer, for sharing their time and space to help those in need, in order to maintain interior and exterior cleanliness.

In terms of the future, Shepard expresses his commitment to the continuous improvement of, not only Carnation Auto Spa, but the entire industry.

“My hope for the industry is that, with all of the continued investment into the space, there are more and more efficiencies to manage site safety, customer damages and improved back office capabilities,” Shepard says. “The industry is light years ahead of where it was in 2016, when I started in the industry, and, I think, over the next five to 10 years, there will be so much innovation [that] much of the space will look completely different than today.”

Alyse Riffer is an editorial intern for Babcox Media and a journalism student at Kent State University.

Photos courtesy of Carnation Auto Spa

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