As spring weather is welcomed across the nation and the days get longer and warmer, a spring and summer pastime — largely referred to as America’s favorite pastime — begins. The 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) season officially began on Thursday, April 7, when professional baseball players took to the field and fans took to the grandstands in ballparks from New York City to Los Angeles. But, in New Braunfels, Texas, one major leaguer has stepped off the field and into the carwash tunnel.
After retiring from an 11-year run as a professional baseball pitcher, most notably playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Daniel McCutchen took his earnings and created Big League Car Wash, a baseball themed express carwash brand that now has two locations in New Braunfels. After the idea for Big League Car Wash had been developing in McCutchen’s mind for years, it officially opened in November 2017, just a year after McCutchen’s retirement from baseball. On this quick career switch, he jokes, “Now, I say I played professional baseball for 11 years so I could have a really cool carwash theme.”
While still playing baseball, McCutchen became interested in the carwashing industry after his brother-in-law, Tyler Furney, began Today’s Car Wash, an express carwash and detailing brand with seven locations throughout central Texas. After his brother-in-law and later mentor piqued his interest in the carwash industry, McCutchen began noticing carwashes while traveling for baseball. MLB teams spend multiple months either in Florida or Arizona for spring training, which McCutchen says was the perfect environment to start planning his own carwash business. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau 2019 study, Florida specifically has the third most carwash establishments out of all 50 U.S. states.
“I remember the first time I bought a membership during spring training,” recalled McCutchen, “it was the first time I went to a carwash with compressed air for detailing and blowing off the mirrors … I jotted that down in my little notebook noting, ‘When I build a carwash, I’m having this for sure.’”
Of course, McCutchen had mentors, like Furney, to help him out along the way. “I had some great mentors … my brother-in-law, Tyler, and Clayton Clark, who founded WhiteWater Express, is one of my good buddies that really mentored me along the way too. I had some great people there to mentor me, but a lot of the stuff I did on my own,” he reflects, noting that Big League Car Wash was largely a one-man operation at the beginning. “I was just trying to do the same thing I did in baseball.”
In the first six months of operation, McCutchen worked 80-hour weeks. “I was here at the wash all day, every day, making sure the operation was going like I wanted it to go,” he explains.
Moving forward, the Big League Car Wash team is in expansion mode, with hopes to have five washes in operation in 2023. For now, Big League will most likely operate exclusively in the New Braunfels, Texas, region, but McCutchen believes he has created a great wash structure and is open to future growth. “I just kind of play it one carwash at a time, but I love what I’m doing and building a really good team around me. So, who knows how big we’ll get?,” he says.
While building current sites, the former professional athlete plays defensively. In the current carwash climate of quick growth, which includes bigger brands buying out the minor leaguers, so-to-speak, McCutchen focuses on defense as much as offense.
“I am looking for the best location on any given street. I’m looking where I can build a really big wash with wide vacuum spaces, three pay stations and a 150-foot tunnel,” he adds. “[A site] where, if I was a competitor coming in and I saw my wash, it’s something that I wouldn’t want to compete with.”
Of course, in this business climate, it’s a bumpy road to business growth. With delays in zoning and other local administrative tasks, supply issues and more, carwash owners in growth mode are forced to stay open-minded and patient, which is something McCutchen copes well with. “Being a professional baseball player, you have to be even-keeled,” he says. “You can’t celebrate your highs too much and you can’t get too down on yourself on your lows. So that’s kind of the same approach that I took to carwashing.”
Big League’s carwash theme provides significant room for marketing creativity to shine — something that baseball fans enjoy. From the 15,000 square feet of artificial turf in front of the business that emulates an outfield to the round trashcans with decals made to look like actual baseballs sitting next to every self-serve vacuum station, the express carwash site is a lot of fun.
The theme goes beyond the physical stadium-like architecture of the wash tunnel, too. Big League’s unlimited wash members, which are officially called “Season Ticket Holders,” have four types of washes to choose from.
The “Double Wash,” named after a baseball hit that advances the batter to second base, costs $19.99 a month and includes a soft cloth wash, spot-free rinse, power air dry, presoak shampoo, wheel blaster and sealer. The wash options move up to the “Triple Wash,” “Home Run Wash” and end at the all-inclusive “Grand Slam Experience,” which is named after the baseball term for when a batter hits a home run when all three bases are filled — the most possible runs that can be scored in one play. This Grand Slam Experience comes with everything in the Single Wash, as well as a total body protectant, rainbow conditioner, tire dressing, wheel cleaner, foam bath, wax, ceramic coating and a three-day clean guarantee for $34.99 a month.
Selling these “season tickets” are a huge aspect of Big League’s business plan. Pitching in to help with these business goals, Big League drafted leading equipment and solution providers in the industry. These teammates help the wash manage and review sale trends, elevating the customer experience and facilitating growth.
“We are definitely on board with what [our partners are] doing,” McCutchen adds.
When describing his five years so far in the carwash industry, McCutchen continuously adds how much he loves what he does. Pairing carwash operations, which is something that everyone in the industry knows can be exciting, unpredictable and rewarding, with baseball has proven to be successful when it comes to Big League Car Wash.
McCutchen reflects, “I have tried to incorporate a ton of what I did in baseball to carwashing.”
In professional sports, players would have no reason to play the sports they love if it weren’t for the fans cheering them on. In carwashing, owners and operators, like McCutchen, depend on their loyal customers’ support to keep doing what they love.
McCutchen concludes, “I’m not worried about sales upfront. I’m not worried about profit upfront. I’m worried about the quality of the wash that we give customers and the customer service that we give the customers. If we have consistent service, take care of the customers and treat them the way that we want to be treated, then the rest of it falls into place.”
Camille Renner is the associate editor of Professional Carwashing & Detailing.