In the age of mega-chains powered by absentee owners and private equity, some operators still prefer a home-grown, family-style approach. Splash Car Wash is family-owned and operated, providing its customers with a personalized touch and the jaw-dropping amenities necessary to win in today’s hyper-competitive market.

Splash Car Wash’s massive flex-serve location in Maumelle, AR.

            Owner Paul Stagg has been in the car wash industry for more than four decades. He started building coin-operated self-serve air machines in the early 80s and eventually purchased a couple of self-serve locations in the 90s, learning the ins and outs of the industry from the ground floor.

            The car wash entrepreneur helped found and grow Boomerang Carwash, developed several quick-lube facilities, and, with the help of his family and close business associates, expanded his Splash Car Wash chain to 26 locations and counting in his home state of Arkansas.

Two members-only lanes ensure club members enjoy a quick, seamless experience.

            “Paul’s really good at getting great people in the right seats to help him grow,” says Splash’s vice president of marketing Justin Young. “He has recruited a great team through the years. Many of us are family friends from college or know each other through other team members. It is a real tight-knit group.”

            Since selling his partnership stake in Boomerang in 2009, Stagg and his family have concentrated on building and expanding the Splash brand. The Splash empire consists of some express-only locations, lube centers, and large-scale flex-serve locations based on the European model.

            In 2016, Stagg took a car wash tour in Europe, visiting some of the massive indoor complexes popular on the continent, and decided to build his own version in Arkansas. He designed and built two huge indoor sites — one in Chenal and the other in Maumelle — bringing a new level of excitement to the Arkansas car wash scene.

A playground area provides a place for Splash’s littlest customers to unwind.

            The sites feature dual express tunnels with all the modern bells and whistles. After the ride through the express tunnel, customers are welcome to use the free indoor vacuum stations, which provide protection from the hot summer sun and cold winter wind.

            “That is a big competitive advantage for us,” says Young. “Choosing between having a membership at a place where in the heat of summer you are going to sweat and be miserable vacuuming your car or going somewhere that’s temperature-controlled is a pretty easy choice.”

The three-bay lube center.

            Those who prefer a do-it-for-me approach to interior cleaning can opt to send their vehicle down one of the site’s two flat belt conveyors and enjoy an Interior Super Clean. The service includes Splash’s best exterior wash, compressed air crevice blowout, vacuuming, interior wipe-down, door jamb cleaning, window cleaning, exterior towel drying, and rim and tire treatment. A one-time package purchase costs $55, while an unlimited monthly membership costs $75. Customers who opt to purchase the package for a full year pay $825, which works out to one free month of the service.

            The size of these European-inspired washes is beyond impressive. The main buildings are over 35,000 square feet and are stocked with every amenity to ensure a clean, shiny car and a comfortable and enjoyable experience for customers.

            In addition to the dual tunnels and finishing areas, the cavernous buildings feature large, clean, well-kept bathrooms, a stocked waiting area with snacks and beverages, plenty of areas to sit down and either watch the action on the conveyor or catch up on email, and an indoor playground for children to enjoy.

The two interior cleaning lanes feature all the bells and whistles.

            “Those little playgrounds are very popular with customers,” says Young. “I have seen many people having ‘mommy play dates’ with their kids while their cars are getting clean. That is great and exactly the vibe we are going for at our sites.”

            While the big buildings provide plenty of cleaning and relaxation power, the washes pack additional on-site services. The two flagship Splash locations feature separate lube centers that provide not only oil changes but additional maintenance services like tire rotation, engine flushes, and air and cabin filters.

            While the mega centers are the heart and soul of the Splash experience, they are far from the chain’s only offerings. Splash operates several express-only locations and standalone lube centers that round out the company’s holdings and ensure the brand stays top of mind for consumers.

            “We have set up Splash as kind of a hub and spoke type model,” says Young. “We have the big ones that offer the interior cleaning and oil changes and then we try to scatter the expresses around them for unlimited members to increase the value. Part of our unlimited benefits is 30 percent off oil changes. On the oil side, you get a free wash with every oil change. So there is a lot of cross-pollination between the locations.”

Inside the well-appointed wash tunnel.

            As Splash evolved from a couple of small coin-op facilities to a 26-site — and growing — chain, it has retained its core family values, providing quality service and a welcoming atmosphere. While its founder, Paul Stagg, still puts his stamp on everything Splash does, over the past few years, he has taken a step back from the day-to-day operations to allow the next generation to guide the company.

            Late last year, Stagg formed a board of directors with himself as chairman, his son Matt Stagg, and his daughter Natalie Stagg Tschepikow. Paul continues to serve as the company’s chief executive officer, and Matt and Natalie continue in their roles as chief growth officer and chief human resource officer, respectively. In addition, Jeff Turk was named president of the company and oversees day-to-day business functions, leading the executive team.

The lobby features plenty of snacks and beverages.

            As Splash continues to scale — seven new locations have opened their doors over the past year — the newly realigned management team will continue to prioritize consumer and employe needs and set the standard of success in the markets they serve.