After 50 years in the car wash industry Dave Koerner can proudly proclaim that his wash is the best in New Hampshire.
For the second time in three years Kerner’s Car Wash & Quick Lube has been named the best car wash in New Hampshire by WMUR Channel 9. The television station’s annual competition asks viewers to vote on their favorite car wash and Kerner’s once again came out on top.
“Our wash is like a family,” Koerner says. “We put our customers first and we produce a top-quality product. We have many customers that have been coming here for decades and they always support us. There are a lot of big chains here and it means a lot to us to be named the best in the state.”
Koerner has been a fixture in the Manchester, NH car wash scene for 50 years, starting out as a car wash attendant and working his way up to the owner of a well-respected and successful family-run chain.
“I used to be an automotive machinist,” he says. “I worked the second shift and there was an opening at the local car wash. They used to hire a maintenance guy to fix things, but when I was there if something broke, I would fix it for them. I didn’t know a lot about car wash equipment, but I’m mechanically inclined. That’s how I started. Eventually, I became the manager and got a minority interest in the business.”
Three or four years later in the mid-‘80s, the owner of the wash was looking to make his exit and sold his washes to his son and Koerner, who ran the sites as 50/50 partners. The partners expanded the business, building a few more washes and a quick lube center, before eventually splitting up the washes and going their separate ways.
“We had four washes at the time, he took two and I took two,” Koerner says. “Once we separated, I purchased a few more sites and 10 years later I was actually able to purchase my former partner’s two sites as well.”
Over the years Koerner has owned and operated a number of locations in and around Manchester, buying and selling sites when opportunities arose. Today, he owns four Kerner’s sites, each with its own concept and product offering.
The flagship site of the Kerner’s empire is its 110-foot express exterior tunnel with attached four-bay quick lube center. Down the road from the express location Kerner’s also operates a five-bay, self-serve location. The sites are neighbors on Beech Street offering the people of Manchester a variety of car wash concepts to meet their unique needs.
Overall, Kerner’s operates the express tunnel, lube center, three in-bay automatics, and 14 self-serve bays.
“To be successful in this business regardless of the concept, you have to put out a quality product,” Koerner says. “I think we do just that. A lot of the time me or my general manager, Cathie, stand at the end of the tunnel just watching the cars come out to make sure there are no issues. If we see a car that isn’t perfect, we offer them another trip down the tunnel for free. We have long-time customers, and we greet many of them by name. We just want to make sure they are happy with their wash.”
Kerner’s treats its customers like extensions of the Koerner’s Family, which has grown up and around the business. Dave’s son Shawn started out at six or seven years old following his father around the wash and helping to empty out the coin hoppers.
Shawn is now the vice president of Kerner’s, running the day-to-day operations of the business and maintaining the equipment at all four locations, as Dave enjoys a well-earned semi-retirement working part time at the washes after 50 years in the car wash trenches.
“Shawn doesn’t want to retire early,” Dave says of his son and the future of Kerner’s. “He wants to continue the legacy and that’s fine with me. He and Cathie are really running the show. I’m still involved but I have taken a step back.”
Joining Shawn and Dave in the family business is Shawn’s 21-year-old son Tyler. Tyler works at Kerner’s full time and is learning the ins and outs of the car wash business and equipment management from his father.
“It is important to be able to maintain your own equipment,” Koerner says. “Shawn is teaching Tyler how to repair and maintain the equipment and Tyler is looking into going to trade school as well to learn more about plumbing and electrical work. Being able to fix mechanical issues when they arise and keep the equipment in top working order is a big part of our success.”
The other piece of Kerner’s long-term success in the Manchester market is its wide range of products and services. With express, self-serve, and in-bay wash options, plus a lube center, there is something for everyone at Kerner’s, helping build a bond between the wash and its customers.
In addition to the traditional wash and lube center combo, Kerner’s offers something unique in the car wash space: state vehicle inspections. Kerner’s is a licensed inspection location for the state of New Hampshire, offering convenience for its customers and an additional revenue stream for the wash.
Unlike many other privately-owned inspection locations throughout the state, no appointment is necessary to get your car inspected at Kerner’s. Just pull up to the lube center and the staff will get you in and out in around 45 minutes, hopefully with a new inspection sticker on your windshield.
Those vehicles that don’t pass the rigorous New Hampshire state inspection, can have their vehicle serviced and brought up to standards right in the Kerner’s lube center.
“We offer light mechanical repairs,” Koerner says. “Anything that can be repaired in around two hours or less we can do for the customer. And we’re open seven days a week, and don’t charge anything additional on a Sunday. It is all about providing convenience for the customer.”
That convenience and one-shop stop approach to vehicle maintenance has made Kerner’s an icon in the Manchester market and helped it earn its Best in New Hampshire status. A status that looks secure for years to come as the next generations of Koerners take