Todd Garey is a lifelong patron of conveyor car washes. In the Midwest, where he hails from, he was a regular customer of a regional car wash chain. He was so taken with the service he was getting that he approached the chain about franchising possibilities, but that was not something the car wash business had an interest in.

Looking SE across the site, U.S. Highway 98 is
at the top of the picture.

When, some years later, Garey relocated to Destin, FL and wanted to continue his car washing habits, he was struck by the absence of a conveyor car wash in the area. Believing that he had identified a need, Garey once again approached the Midwest chain, this time suggesting a joint venture. Still he found no interest.

Otto’s Express Car Wash.

Undeterred, Garey persisted. “Just being an entrepreneur my entire life, and knowing that I needed something to stay busy,” he explains, “I started with doing some legwork on my own within the industry to figure it out.” This was at the beginning of 2016 and lead to an introduction to MacNeil Wash Systems and a referral to the company’s distributor for the area, Mike Dickert of Complete Car Wash.

“They give me advice regarding what to look for in a car wash location: traffic count, easy in and out, good visibility, near a major commercial hub like a Lowes, Home Depot, or Walmart,” says Garey. “So I started looking for those attributes. I found a location that met all of those attributes with a main road out front, and actually a local road at the back, with a Home Depot, a stop light, and great visibility. It was a bank-owned lot that had been sitting there for a long time and had never been developed. I made an offer on it, and that was the first step in the process.”

West elevation.

West elevation rendering.

The location is bordered on three sides by roadways. U.S. Highway 98 runs along the southern edge of the lot; Commons Drive, a local street, borders the lot on north side. To the west is Triumph Road that connects Highway 98 to Commons Drive. Access to the wash site is from Triumph Road whose intersection with Highway 98 is controlled by a traffic light; at Commons Drive a roundabout manages the traffic flow. The average daily traffic count on Highway 98 is around 58,000 cars, while Commons Drive carries approximately 14,000. “Because [Destin is] a destination for vacationers, the main road is often viewed as the one that visitors drive up and down and the locals know to use the back roads,” says Garey.

The year-round population in Destin is approximately 13,000. Garey believes that this might be one of the reasons why the town had been overlooked as an opportunity to develop a conveyor car wash there. However, Okaloosa County (in which Destin is located) and bordering Walton County to the east together attract roughly 4 million visitors a year. “Eighty- seven percent of these visitors drive in,” says Garey. That’s a lot of cars, and one reason why he already has land identified in Walton County for a second Otto’s Express Car Wash location.

Tunnel entrance.
Tunnel exit.

Garey realizes that the population makeup poses some marketing challenges. “Our marketing strategy is going to be a little bit different than that of most car washes because of that. I’ll obviously be selling monthly passes to the locals, but that does not work as well for the visitors. We intend to be in as many welcome packages as possible — the ones guests receive when they check into that hotel room, rental condo, or house.” The emphasis will also be on digital marketing. The website at regularly updates drone images of the construction progress, and the wash already has a presence on Facebook.

At a Glance
• Three Access Lanes
• 24 Free-Vacuum Slots
• Wash Equipment — MacNeil Wash Systems
• Dryer — Tech 21 by MacNeil
• Central Vacuum — MacVac by MacNeil
• Reclaim Consultants — PurClean
• POS System — Washify
• Distributor — Complete Car Wash