In the city of Corona, California, which is located near Southeast Los Angeles, one successful entrepreneur had the vision to “transform the traditional carwash experience.” In the fall of 2021, Cesar Scolari, CEO and owner of Merit Logistics, a provider of warehouse services for grocery and retail chains, fulfilled his vision with the opening of Merit Autospa.
Merit Autospa differs from the common modernized carwash in more ways than one. From the interesting and innovative architecture of the physical building to the convenience store located inside, the food served there and everything in between, Merit is offering the Corona community a one-stop-shop type of business with exceptional carwashing and detailing at the forefront of its operations.
The “one-stop-shop” mentioned above doesn’t just refer to the convenience store aspect of Merit Autospa, but also to its car care services. Patrons of the large car care facility on North McKinley Street can utilize Merit’s full-serve carwashing, professional detailing services including hand waxes, interior conditioning, carpet shampooing and more, and the team even completes oil changing, filter replacements and 10-point inspections on-site.
While a majority of the carwashing industry is moving away from full service carwashes — as more of today’s consumers show interest in the quick and convenient express model — Scolari still recognizes the need for it. However, Merit’s operations do include a common trend among express washes: the membership model.
Members have the choice between five membership packages, ranging from $59 per month to $299 per month. The most affordable “VIP Signature Hand Wash Membership” offers three of the company’s signature washes monthly, which would cost over $100 without the membership. The all-inclusive $299 “Platinum Membership” includes four signature washes that come with a popular sealant brand application, ceramic coating and hand waxing, per month. Additionally, any visitor that utilizes Merit’s oil changing services receives a free signature hand wash at a $35 value.
After purchasing the carwash in the summer of 2020, Scolari knew he didn’t have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, to make the business successful. By adding innovative improvements to the classic full service carwash model, he knew it could be something exceptional.
Stay a while
When Scolari began working on Merit Autospa, he had big hopes for what the business could provide for the community. “[I] undertook a major renovation of the site to create a contemporary architectural design that would offer not only first-class auto care services, but also modern marketplace amenities and exceptional dining options for the community,” he explains.
Striving to “break the mold” of modern carwashes, the team behind Merit Autospa envisioned its wash as a place that is a convenient social destination. They achieved this by including unique amenities for patrons waiting for their full-serve wash to be completed.
The architecturally beautiful building, which was designed by award-winning designer Sat Garg of Akarstudios, is home to a convenience store style marketplace that sells snacks, beverages, beer and wine, a café that serves hand-crafted espresso drinks, pastries, smoothies, sandwiches and more, and an always on-site food truck appropriately named “Meritaco” that offers authentic and made-to-order burritos, tortas, quesadillas, nachos, salads and tacos.
All of Merit’s innovative amenities also enhance comfort for visitors to the large site. For those who are enjoying the Mexican cuisine from Meritaco, there is an outdoor covered eating area, which is lighted with string lights after the sun goes down. Inside, visitors to The Café or those who just want to wait for their finished carwash indoors have the option to hang out, work or eat in a comfortable sitting area complete with access to a public Wi-Fi network.
“The vision for this first location was to create something truly extraordinary for the Corona community — a beautiful, elegant setting where people can gather and enjoy the best auto care services available, a favorite espresso drink, an authentic Mexican dining experience and the convenience of picking up a bottle of wine or refreshment from our market on their way home from work,” Scolari explains.
A word seen all over Merit Autospa and its website — and how customers feel about the whole Merit experience — is “extraordinary.” The mission statement of the carwash business reads, “to provide an extraordinary experience with exceptional products and services in an innovative social environment.”
When training new employees, management utilizes a training style that follows “Merit Autospa’s Three Tenets of Extraordinary.” These company tenets are the following:
Through these tenets, exceptional customer service, a unique wash experience and innovative wash technology, Merit Autospa provides an extraordinary wash. When creating Merit Autospa, Scolari explained he had a “willingness to invest enormous amounts of time, energy and, yes, money.”
One aspect of the business that Scolari invested in was top-notch technology. While the physical wash tunnel was in operation for many years prior to the Merit Autospa takeover, Scolari decided to completely renovate the tunnel. On top of technological updates to the wash equipment, he invested in industry leading supplies.
In order to further modernize the carwash, the team also installed a brand new point-of-sale (POS) system, which handles many aspects of Merit’s operations, including online ordering, sales reporting, membership plan management, gift card capabilities for all six of its profit centers and more. As cash is used less and less as a payment method, investing in technologically advanced POS systems, like the system used by Merit Autospa, is safer for customers’ financial security and beneficial for tracking sales and profits in the business’ backend.
While the flagship Merit Autospa location in Corona, California, has been in operation for just a short five months, the team has no plans to coast on the success of its one location. The vision of Merit Autospa was quickly achieved by Scolari, and he hopes to bring the experience to other communities in the near future. “The local interest in and demand for a destination like Merit Autospa has been very evident and inspiring,” he says.
“We are looking forward to the unfolding of a brilliant future for this enterprising new business,” concludes Scolari.
Camille Renner is the associate editor of Professional Carwashing & Detailing.
Be sure to check out our follow up interview with Cesar Scolari at Merit Autospa below.