When Tricia Knott, owner of Green Forest Car Wash, worked for her dad in high school, she caught the entrepreneurial bug. She looked for a business that delivered great service and value to customers, and would allow her to spend time with her family and be a good steward of the environment.
She met Thomas Ennis with NS Wash Systems, and Green Forest opened in 2009 in Hawthorne, California. It now has three locations with another on the way.
One thing that sets Green Forest apart is its creativity. “The idea of a fun, interactive carwash made sense to both of us and our families, and a jungle theme allowed us to spotlight the critical role the rain forest plays in our ecosystem as well as underscore the importance of using environmentally friendly, water and energy saving systems,” says Knott.
According to Knott, the goal was to create a carwash that was fun, affordable, fast and environmentally friendly.
“The colorful jungle theme is fun, and we keep prices low so it's economical, the automated pay stations make it fast and easy, and the entire process is [as] eco-friendly as possible to protect our environment,” she shares.
Knott’s partner Thomas Ennis has spent more than 50 years in the carwash business, and his company, NS Wash Systems, designed Green Forest. Knott credits him with a thorough understanding of what equipment works best.
The wash strives to live up to its name through education and a state-of-the-art water reclamation system, notes Knott. Green Forest teaches customers about the role the rain forest plays in the world’s ecosystem.
Green Forest’s Hawthorne location has won the South Bay Environmental Award twice, states Knott.
“Since its opening, the carwash has been recognized for conservation of natural resources in an industry that works hard to be a leader in environmental issues, including water use, power consumption and air quality,” she adds.
The wash uses above-ground water reclamation systems, explains Knott. “It is environmentally safer to have these systems above ground because if [one] leaks, it is easier to detect and clean up. Underground would be harder to find and the only way to clean or fix a problem is to dig it up, which is more costly.”
The carwash also uses environmentally friendly soaps and detergents.
To reduce its energy use, Green Forest uses low-horsepower equipment with variable frequency drives (VFDs) and soft start motors. It also uses soft cloth to reduce noise pollution.
“The soft cloths are quiet on the car — less noise — than nylon brushes and they are [gentler] on the car and the paint,” continues Knott.
In addition to its environmentally conscious equipment, Green Forest also incorporates new technology in its conveyor.
“The chain is simple to repair, and also it features a simultaneous front wheel pull/rear wheel push feature that allows an operator to put more equipment in a smaller tunnel,” Knott explains.
Green Forest involves its customers in every step of the wash process, sometimes even before they drive onto the site.
“Some customers are involved long before they arrive through our interactive website, www.greenforestcarwash.com, or by liking and following us on Facebook,” says Knott.
Once customers arrive the experience continues. “The jungle animals or dinosaurs greet you at the entrance, and our friendly, professional staff is ready to help with the automated pay station or free vacuums,” Knott shares.
Depending on which location the customer chooses, he or she will go through the rain forest or experience a dinosaur theme.
“At the Hawthorne Green Forest location, a tiger roars as a car enters the rain forest,” Knott explains. “Gigantic, soft, furry leaves brush the car to loosen dirt. The Bubblecano lathers the car with soap bubbles that are illuminated by lights from above. A torrential rainstorm opens up that blasts recycled water at 200 psi.”
True to its theme, every part of the wash experience relates to the rain forest or dinosaur park, from the wax covering the vehicle’s exterior to the vacuums used to clean its interior.
“Next, specially formulated green leaves gently massage the soap onto the car, smoothly moving from front to rear,” continues Knott. “Yellow wax from bees drizzles down the car and is rubbed by side-to-side curtain. A rain shower, complete with lightening, rinses the car clean. The car leaves the rain forest covered in little beads of water, an effect created by the clear coat that makes it easier for the water to be blown off as it goes through the Air Wiper. For inside cleanup, the vacuums have rainbow-colored hoses. Trees and flowers inside and out complete the jungle experience.”
The dinosaur wash has also been popular with customers. Knott says one family visited solely because of the prehistoric theme.
“Our customers really love the concept,” notes Knott. “Recently, we asked a dad visiting our Bell Gardens location what brought him to us and he said, ‘my kids, they love the dinosaurs!’”
Green Forest is constructing a new location near the Los Angeles harbor to create an ocean theme with the amphibious Spinosaurus dinosaur, dolphins and whales.
The carwash also supports its community. While carwashes held in parking lots are decreasing in popularity due to environmental concerns and new regulations forbidding them, Knott says Green Forest makes it simple for charities to raise money at the wash.
“What we do is simple and fun and doesn’t require anything more than good old fashioned ‘boots on the ground’ from the organization,” she explains.
Green Forest prints flyers with information about a partnering nonprofit. The organization then hands out the flyers for 30 days. When the 30 days are up, the wash tallies up the flyers and donates $1 to the nonprofit for every flyer received.
“Community groups interested in this fundraising opportunity should visit our website,” shares Knott.
Keep it fun and relevant
Knott says carwashing in many places has become more of a chore than a fun, family experience.
“Unfortunately, for many, the experience today has become expensive and time consuming,” she states. “We encourage carwash owners and operators to consider incorporating a theme into their express system and make the experience fun, affordable and fast.”