It’s true what they say: Teamwork makes the dream work.
Several years ago, six businessmen in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, started discussing what they felt the city could use in terms of new business. They finally decided on a carwash — but none of them had ever worked in or run an actual carwash before.
Dave Dreessen ran a livestock business for 15 years before becoming a realtor. Aaron Rietsema and Cameron Herlyn are realtors, with the latter also being an agricultural producer. Jeremy Vis is a lender, while Ryan Van Donge owns a carpet cleaning company. Craig Humphreys alone had detailing experience as the owner of a paintless dent repair business.
So, it only stood to reason that, after deciding to build a high-end express carwash, the owners contacted a carwash-specific consulting company to piece together the best setup and equipment they could find.
“We relied heavily on our consultants and doing homework for several years before we put this plan into action,” Dreessen explains. “We came up with our own design and tried to think of ways to have the best wash and experience in the whole area.”
The result was a clean, modern flex service site called Clean Ride Auto Spa that gives an option for almost any type of wash a customer could want. With a mission statement of, “Where every detail matters,” Clean Ride has gone above and beyond to set itself apart as a unique carwashing destination.
Let it flow
Just as a trip to the spa can remove tense blockages from a person’s energy flow, Clean Ride Auto Spa is a stellar study in how the layout of a carwash can keep customers flowing in and out. From the main road, a sign directs customers to take one of two entrances: one to the carwash and another to the on-site coffee shop and pet wash. The wash entrance splits into three queuing lanes, two of which are designated for larger vehicles while one is designated for cash customers and smaller vehicles.
At the touchscreen kiosks, customers can not only choose their exterior and interior packages, but they can also choose between a friction or a touch-free tunnel wash. Clean Ride is the only carwash in the area to offer the hybrid tunnel service. This carwash also sought to give its customers peace of mind by making it easy to load into the tunnel using a belt conveyor — again, the only one of its kind in the Sioux Falls area.
After exiting the tunnel, a customer has three options: pulling straight ahead to the wash exit, turning into the vacuum area or turning into the 12 detailing bays.
Clean Ride has a lane exclusively for the free towel dry that comes with every exterior wash, but it also offers a variety of detailing services, from a quick interior clean to a complete detail, with packages tailored for interiors, exteriors or both. All three levels of detailing services it offers include vacuum, windows, exterior and interior wipe downs, and a fragrance that the customer can choose. Two full-time detailers on staff take care of appointment-only and dealer vehicles.
As fate would have it, Clean Ride Auto Spa opened in March 2020 — right as the coronavirus pandemic was rearing its head in the U.S. At a time when even well-established businesses were worrying about their futures, Clean Ride didn’t have much time to get a sense for normal operations before the economic effects of the pandemic hit.
“COVID-19 caused a 50% reduction in our car count for the months of April and May,” Dreessen explains. “We saw a lower percentage of people wanting to do interiors during those months.”
The benefit of being a flex-serve wash was that Clean Ride didn’t have to be dependent on its interior sales. Luckily, as the months passed, lockdown restrictions eased, and as people ventured back outside, Clean Ride then experienced a resurgence.
“We have since seen our client base double and keep adding a higher percentage of interiors each month. One of the most effective promos during that stretch was offering free washes to any healthcare provider. Being local, we really value our healthcare and frontline workers who keep this state and city so safe,” Dreessen adds.
All in all, Dreessen notes, Clean Ride has had very positive results after its first five months in operation, despite the couple of months that the pandemic slowed it down. The wash’s customer base and membership numbers continue to grow daily.
“We have gained several new customers and clients from the competition due to our great wash, attention to detail, free dry-offs and an overall more enjoyable experience,” Dreessen proclaims.
A place to unwind
As if its hybrid tunnel and detailing options weren’t enough of an edge over the competition, Clean Ride found other ways to offer customers a vast range of experiences and bring in more revenue.
As customers are waiting for their vehicles to be detailed, they can relax in the other main attraction at Clean Ride: The Clean Bean, a coffee shop offering a full menu of items daily, such as pastries, smoothies, hot sandwiches, protein balls and fresh rolls — in addition, of course, to coffee from local brand Coffea.
However, Clean Ride didn’t want The Clean Bean to cater solely to carwash customers. The owners sought to make the coffee shop its own attraction. Not only does The Clean Bean have a drive-thru window for customers on-the-go, but for those looking to sit down and stay awhile, The Clean Bean also features a private loft for a variety of meeting types.
Next to The Clean Bean is The Dog Spa, Clean Ride’s indoor pet wash facility that also has a picnic table located just outside, where family members and other dog wash customers can wait.
With all the parts of the wash to run — the tunnel, the detailing bays and The Clean Bean — Clean Ride employs around 30 people and has an average of eight to 10 workers on the floor at one time most days. Clean Ride’s six partners too are getting the hang of working at a wash.
“During most days, you’ll find at least two owners working alongside of the staff to show our support and leadership in the product we kick out,” Dreessen says. “We strive for a family-type atmosphere and have found that a positive work environment is leading to good attitudes and a great final product.”
Despite their various backgrounds, Dreessen, Rietsema, Herlyn, Vis, Van Donge and Humphreys can now all say they have one thing in common: They are the proud owners of Clean Ride Auto Spa. For the foreseeable future, they plan to simply focus on their current location and continue to add members and quality to their wash experience.
“We have enjoyed working at the wash and trying to grow the business,” Dreessen concludes. “It has its challenging days and its rewarding days. There is always going to be competition, but my advice would be [to] stay focused on yourself, try to put out the best product in the area and make your wash the favorite of as many people as you can.”