Car wash owners are technology people. They rely on both mechanical and electronic equipment to keep their businesses up and running.
In addition to the machinery needed to wash cars, many owners are fascinated by all types of automotive tech. Father and son, Saul and Kerry Armus of Metuchen Car Wash are two such operators. They recently installed an electric car charger at their site elevating the cool factor at their wash and furthering their commitment to environmental consciousne
Saul started out in the car wash business in the ‘70s, owning and operating two sites in North Jersey before stepping away from the business in the late ‘80s. Kerry grew up at his father’s washes working the line as an adolescent through his college years. When Kerry and brother Adam came of age Saul asked them if they wanted to continue in the family business, both declined. Kerry went into computers and Adam headed to California to become a Hollywood screen writer and producer.
Saul closed down his washes but his heart never truly left the car wash industry, making his return four years ago at the age of 77 with Kerry by his side. The younger Armus had tired of the computer business and wanted to try something different and was drawn back to what he knew growing up: washing cars.
Saul and Kerry purchased a struggling site in Metuchen, NJ, renamed it, retooled it, and instantly began to grow the bottom line. Since its re-opening in 2010 the business is up 15 percent and washes about 125 cars per day.
“The wash was pretty beat up,” Kerry Armus says. “It needed a lot of love and care. We cleaned up the property put in a new top brush, side brushes, poodle brushes, and conveyor. We constantly get complimented on what we have done. The site is no longer an eyesore.”
The 65-foot express exterior tunnel features a 100-foot conveyor and despite its short length is packed with plenty of equipment to get the job done. The site has five pay vacuum stations onsite that cost just 50 cents for 2.5 minutes.
In addition to improving and upgrading the grounds and wash equipment, the owners have invested in innovation as well. The electric vehicle charging station was installed as a way to differentiate the business while furthering the wash’s environmental pursuits.
“My daughter just graduated law school,” Armus says. “She is going to be an environmental attorney. She is the one that got me thinking green. We do everything we can to save water. We even go through our garbage cans and pull out all the aluminum cans and cardboard people throw in there and recycle it.”
Metuchen Car Wash is the only place in town that offers an electric vehicle charging station and Kerry believes he is the first car wash across the industry to provide the service. The ClipperCreek charging station can fully charge an electric vehicle in about two hours, but most Metuchen Car Wash customers just stop in for a quick 30 to 40 minute top off of their power reserv
While their car is getting an energy boost customers can utilize one of the vacuums, have their vehicle detailed, or head to the center of town to enjoy a quick bite to eat. The charging station was put in about three months ago and has garnered much attention from the local press and customers alike and has already provided instant ROI in both goodwill and additional business.
The site provides the charging station to its customers as a free additional service — the average vehicle charge costs the wash around $2 in electric fees. The increase in utility costs is offset by a bump in the purchase of additional services.
While waiting for their car to charge customers can choose among four detailing options that can be performed right at the charging station. Detailing options start at just $25 for a car wash, vacuum, and spray wax. The top-of-the-line, full-serve detail experience costs a very reasonable $150 and includes a hand wax and interior steam cleaning.
“It might be a $250 to $300 job, but we charge $150,” Armus says of his customer-friendly pricing structure. “It is just what we do. We might be a little underpriced but we have people coming back again and again.”
The owners don’t utilize any traditional marketing and advertising techniques to spread the word about their services, instead relying on word-of-mouth and inventive public relations campaigns to increase awarene
Kerry likes to get out in front of the public at town events like street fares and parades to hand out coupons and mingle with potential customers. “I like to do different things,” he says. “We don’t just send out coupons in the mail. We prefer to hand them to the customer directly.”
In addition to handing out coupons the wash positions itself as a fun, lively place to get your car washed by participating in all kinds of community events. For example for this past Halloween Metuchen Car Wash decorated a scarecrow with the laminated faces of its employees for the town’s Scarecrow on Main Street campaign. The wash also decorated its lawn with huge inflatable Halloween decorations to celebrate the holiday.
The wash co-promotes with other businesses in town like the local Chevy dealership. Co-promotion with a dealership might seem like a stretch for a car wash — not many new car sales are generated in the car wash tunnel — but it is actually the perfect fit now that Metuchen has the electric vehicle charging station.
Customers are exposed to the new Chevy Volt and can see how easy it is to charge the vehicle even away from home. “We actually have influenced some sales for them,” Armus says. “A few of our customers saw the Volt charging here and got interested in it. We recommended they visit the dealership and they bought one. In return the dealership hands out coupons for us and recommends our services.”
After a couple of decades away from the industry the Armus family has made its return to the car wash business and is carving out a place for themselves among the full-service competition. Despite the fact that Saul is now in his 80s the partners are not against the idea of expansion.
“My father is a car wash guy,” Kerry Armus says. “It is what he loves. If the right opportunity comes along we would certainly jump at it. But right now we are happy where we are and are enjoying every day.”