For over 30 years Posh Car Wash has operated as a typical full serve — huge facilities, lots of overhead, and a massive amount of labor. But six months ago the wash made its first foray into the world of express washing, redefining the New York and New Jersey chain.
The typical full-service Posh location has 20 employees on site prepping, scrubbing, finishing, and detailing cars — resulting in substantial labor costs. With no end in sight to increasing labor costs, the family-owned Posh decided to break from its long-established full-service model, opening a low-labor express exterior in Roselle, NJ.
The Markowitz family — brothers Stewart, Marc, Eric, and Peter, along with semi-retired father Zvi — has been exclusively operating full-service washes for three decades. But the appeal of lower labor costs coupled with changing customer expectations spurred a change.
“The trend going forward for the industry is express exteriors,” Marc Markowitz says. “It requires a lot less manpower, and is a lot easier to run.”
In addition to its newly-opened express format wash, Posh operates five full-service locations equipped with detail centers and fast lube facilities. The newest location sits on more than an acre of property and sports an 85-foot friction tunnel stocked with a combination of Econocraft and MacNeil equipment.
While the Markowitzs are new to the express concept, its Roselle customers are veterans of the format. Prior to their purchase of the wash, it had been operated as an exterior wash for 25 years, conditioning the motoring public to the concept long before it was commonplace across the country.
When the Markowitz brothers bought the facility a little over a year ago it was in bad shape — aging equipment coupled with a worn down and dated appearance made it a perfect candidate for a total rehab. To avoid the high cost and aggravation of a ground-up project, the Markowitzs decided to keep the footprint of the tunnel intact while still transforming both its appearance and performance. The rehab project took three months to complete, and when the newly renovated wash reopened for business it beared little resemblance to its previous incarnation.
The fact that the local community had been conditioned to the express concept, coupled with the high-flying capabilities of the newly equipped tunnel led to immediate success for Posh. “This place use to wash around 25,000 to 30,000 cars a year,” Markowitz says. “After just six months in business we are on pace to wash 65,000 cars in our first year.”
While the facelift has a lot to do with the growth of the site, the additional services that Posh brings to the table has helped propel the wash to the next level. While the wash sports an express exterior tunnel, the Markowitzs couldn’t turn their backs totally on the full-service concept, providing a flex-serve option to those customers looking for a do-it-for-me interior cleaning experience. The flex-serve option is a $10 upgrade to any wash package and features window cleaning, interior vacuum, and Armor All treatment on the tires.
The Posh express menu has four wash levels. The entry-level $4.99 Express Wash features a ride through the express tunnel, and like all menu options comes with a hand towel dry. For $8.99 the Silver package adds triple foam polish, hot wax, and under body wash. The Gold wash adds rim cleaner and tire shine. While the top-of-the-line Platinum wash ($14.99) takes the experience to the next level with the application of RainX.
In the early going the Platinum wash has been the most popular menu option, with 35 percent of customers opting for the top wash, helping drive the average per car ticket north of $9.
Another key offering that has helped propel the wash to early success is its express detailing services. After exiting the tunnel, flex-serve and detail customers are ushered to a three-space covered finishing area where both express and full-serve detailing are conducted.
Four different express packages are offered. For an additional $10 to the top-of-the-line wash customers can choose between an Express Wax or an Express Shampoo. In addition, for $34.99 customers can choose between the Interior Super Clean or the Express Combo. The Super Clean option includes vacuuming, interior wipe down, and tire and rim cleaning. The Express Combo features both an express wax and an express shampoo.
Posh also offers a full-line of full-service detailing options including the Posh Supreme, a $109.99 service that features a full exterior and interior detail. For $40 more customer can increase the level of service with an exterior compounding.
While Posh offers a full range of services, it still operates with a lean labor force. In stark contrast to the 20 workers it takes to operate their full-serve locations, the Markowitzs keep just four workers on site at their newest wash — two to work the wash and two to man the express/full-serve detail center. A key member of the staff is Rado Boncik, a long-time Posh employee that was offered a small ownership stake in the express location. Boncik manages the site, helping the Markowitzs expandtheir empire without stretching the brothers too thin. “This is the first time we have done this,” Markowitz explained. “Rado has been with us for 18 years in our full-service business. He earned this opportunity.”
When a customer pulls onto the lot they are greeted by a Posh employee who takes their order and collects payment. For credit card payments employees sport a mobile POS unit that allows them to tenure payment while on the move. After paying for their wash, customer cars are prepped and sent down the tunnel. Following the standard hand dry, customers that opted for express services head over to the detailing center.
While there has been a tunnel wash at the site for over 25 years, the Markowitzs conducted a full media blitz when they opened their new location to inform the community of the new and improved services Posh offered. They placed ads in the local paper and ValPak as well as hosting a big Grand Opening celebration complete with banners, flags, and a hot dog cart. A key tenet of the marketing plan includes staying in touch with customers via e-mail — facilitated through Constant Contact — to inform them of special deals and promotions and to encourage them to return to the site for another ride through the tunnel.
The latest Posh wash was a break with tradition for the Markowitzs, but the early going has been nothing but positive for the family of car washers. While nothing is currently on the docket expansion-wise, the family is always on the lookout to increase their wash holdings and will be opening more facilities in the future — and if the early success of the express concept is any indication more express facilities.