While All American Car Wash was established in Northern Texas over two decades ago, it recently was placed into new hands — ones that didn’t want to shake up a long established and successful business too much. After acquiring the four All American Car Wash locations in Wichita Falls, Texas, and Lawton, Oklahoma, in December 2021, the buyer — Racer Classic Investments, LLC (RCI) — remained determined to continue the All American legacy while helping the brand grow with the influx of capital.
The desire to build on the already developed and locally respected All American brand by RCI CEO Andrew Zamora was brought on by a personal relationship developed through Southwest Car Wash Association (SCWA) membership. Prior to the creation of RCI, Zamora had been operating carwashes since 1998, before serving as an SCWA board member and eventually the SCWA president for the 2019-2020 term.
It was during his time on the Board of Directors that Zamora met Larry Ayres, a veteran operator who owned the aforementioned All American Car Wash. This connection eventually spurred the sale of the business where Ayres remains an equity partner and a wealth of knowledge for the current ownership to this day as the VP of new development for north Texas and Oklahoma.
This publication frequently discusses the many benefits of belonging to an association, such as SCWA, and the journey of All American Car Wash and Racer Classic Investments is proof of the benefits that can be found.
Making All American greater again
The familiar adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” rings true in many industries, carwashing included. This phrase also relates to RCI’s mindset when acquiring new washes. “When we went in, we didn’t necessarily want to change what Larry — what All American — was doing,” notes Zamora.
Prior to the change of ownership, All American Car Wash had two carwash and lube locations and two express carwash locations. Now, all four of these locations are still operating as they originally were intended to, but the influx of capital by RCI allowed the brand to grow outside of Wichita Falls and Lawton. Plans are in place for construction to begin on more carwashes and lube centers in the North Texas region and five express locations in greater San Antonio — a new market for the brand.
“By mid-July, we’ll have three additional washes open in South Texas. And, there are five others under construction in San Antonio,” Zamora reveals.
While this fast growth mirrors other leading portfolios in the increasingly popular carwash space, RCI assures that they are unique in the way they handle investments. “I’ve been blessed enough that we have private equity (PE) money available to us, but it’s not a PE firm … I don’t run a PE firm, I run a carwash company first and foremost,” says Zamora.
While different outlooks on running a successful carwash can find profitability, RCI believes its portfolio is unique from the competition because the funding is managed with an operator’s mindset. In fact, Zamora estimates that the RCI leadership team has a combined 85 years of carwash industry experience.
“I’d put my team — from CFO Monte Moore, COO Chris Cavett, down to each one of our additional corporate key individuals — up against anybody in the country,” he adds.
Keeping tradition while innovating
For All American Car Wash and RCI, the team has found success by remaining open to new ideas, perspectives and innovations. While this may seem to contradict the previous section, the two concepts actually can exist hand-in-hand.
For instance, Racer Classic Car Wash, an express brand that was developed by RCI and then sold to International Car Wash Group in 2021, continued to hand dry cars and hand apply tire shine even after the major adoption of blowers and tire shine machines industry wide. Zamora felt that for Racer Classic’s market and customers, the added value and precision of a team member drying and applying tire shine by hand made a difference in the product they provided when compared to washes that didn’t provide the same service. He concludes the anecdote by saying, “I wanted to see what would beat the competition, and side drying did.”
While Racer Classic Car Wash saw success with the personalized service offered by side drying and hand applying tire shine, as technology advanced, the team decided its product would now be enhanced by adding innovative tire shine machines. This highlights what has helped All American and its sister brands find success — knowing “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” but also keeping an open mind and paying attention to trends and innovations.
As a self-proclaimed “old-timer,” Zamora says there are things to learn from newcomers in the industry. “You see a lot of younger generation operators that are really trying some cool stuff out, and you know what? Some of it works … we can’t put our head in the sand and say, ‘Well, that’s not the way we do it,’ or ‘We never did it that way.’”
He also considers the market the wash is located in. Not all wash markets are created equal, as multi-site regional operators know all too well.
All American morphs to the market of each individual site by offering different services at various locations. Many of the North Texas locations offer oil and lube centers on top off express detailing, while the soon to open South Texas All American Car Washes operate as express washes only. The All American team remains thoughtful when making decisions about new sites. Zamora advises, “As an operator, you do what works for you, what you believe in and what’s good for your customers and employees.”
Like many operators, Zamora credits the success of All American to the business’ leadership and team members. On the brand’s quick growth, he notes, “It’s a challenge, but we have great people working for us.”
Of these great people, he says the service advisors (SAs) that interact with customers every day are who keep the business thriving. “At the end of the day, your customers are going to go for the service,” he notes. All American utilizes a strong training program for service advisors, and this has helped the brand increase the amount of unlimited wash club members it serves. This has been achieved by delivering a thoughtful and deliberate approach to selling the membership — with consistent messages being told at every All American location.
The customers are important to leadership, but they focuses on the employees just as much as the customers. If SAs are unhappy at work, they will not provide as good of service and, according to Zamora, customers are really just looking for excellent service.
Of all the successes All American has found in the five months since RCI took over operations, what Zamora is most proud of is the lack of team member turnover post acquisition.
“The people that Larry had working for him was a direct reflection of who he is,” Zamora comments. “And, not one of his employees — not one — has left. Every one of them, from the office staff all the way down, is still with us and part of RCI, so we’re really pleased with that.”
The quality and profitability of All American Car Wash post ownership change can be correlated to the nature of the acquisition. Two respected members of the industry, Andrew Zamora and Larry Ayres, collaborated to grow the Texas and Oklahoma carwash brand forward.
Zamora concludes, “It always amazes me … that you can call somebody from anywhere [in the industry] and, for the most part, they’re going to help you.”
The collaboration found in the All American Car Wash acquisition is a trait that all parties involved, and the carwash industry as a whole, should be proud of.
Camille Renner is the associate editor of Professional Carwashing & Detailing.