Car wash formats come in and out of style, but quality service stands the test of time.

The newest Shammy Shine location in Phillipsburg-Greenwich, NJ.

For nearly 40 years Shammy Shine Car Wash has been servicing Western New Jersey and Lehigh Valley Pennsylvania, evolving with the times from a self-serve operation to a tech-filled express exterior chain.

Brothers Craig and Dave Stems started with one self-serve location in 1975, growing to a 13-location chain that dominates the local market. The newest location in Phillipsburg-Greenwich, NJ opened its express exterior tunnel and lube center in July of this year and has already begun capturing market share and growing its customer base by the d

The chain’s newest locations can service up to three cars at a time in the lube center.

“The site was a full-serve car wash with an auto body shop before we bought it,” operations director Tom Halford says. “We changed it to the express model with free vacuums and a drive-through lube. We really like the finished product and the community has been very receptive.”

The nine-year-old site had gone through two owners before being converted to a Shammy Shine. The previous owners lacked car wash experience and botched the construction and operation of the prime location. Halford, Craig Stem’s son-in-law, oversaw the nearly two-year renovation project.

The typical Shammy Shine is located off the beaten track, located in the neighborhoods they service, but the newest locale is smack in the middle of a retail shopping center on a busy intersection. The shopping center features a Best Buy and Target, and enjoys great visibility from the street and plenty of traffic especially on Saturdays.

The newest Shammy Shine features a 110-foot, well-equipped tunnel and a two-bay lube center. The oil change center sports one single and one double bay, allowing for the service of three cars at a time. Shammy Shine goes for a low-stress oil change experience, never pressuring customers to buy additional services. Of course the lube center has all of the typically up-sell opportunities, but staff is under orders not to go for the hard sell.

Instead of pushy salespeople, the lube center relies on next-gen technology to offer its services and portray a cool/hip experience. Upon entering the oil change center customers are handed an iPad loaded with specially designed software that acts as a digital menu board. Customers are able to order services, view their service history, and even sign their digital receipt all on the handheld tabl

The ICS Auto Sentrys.

“We do not sell the customer anything they don’t need,” Halford says. “There are no pushy salespeople. With the advancement in technology we are able to offer our full menu of services without the hard sell. It coincides with our express model where they get to stay in their vehicle. A lot of people come in with their dogs or children, or just want to check something on their smartphone and this enables them to do that. The iPad menu has worked great and we are looking into introducing the service at our other two quick lube locations.

The 110-foot express tunnel.

Shammy Shine operates self-serves, full-serves, and express washes — but has gravitated to the express format equipped with free vacuums, focusing its expansion efforts on the growing concept. All four of its Pennsylvania locations are express tunnels. In New Jersey, Shammy Shine operates two strictly self-serve locations and seven tunnel locations with a self-serve component. As car wash equipment has evolved over the years and the public’s concern over damage from aggressive wash material has dissipated, customers have increasingly embraced the express model while self-serve has faded in popularity.

The express concept allows the chain to build increased wash awareness and further the brand experience through its wash club. The sites are tightly-packed into a relatively small geographic location which makes the unlimited wash club enticing to customers and lessens the wash’s marketing requiremen

The converted body shop works great as an oil change center.

“We have been in the wash club game for a while and we love it,” Halford says. “We have a person in our office that just handles club membership so customer service is always on point. It really has worked well for us, I think you can attribute that to the amount of locations we have and our footprint.”

Having been in the market for four decades the Shammy Shine name certainly has brand recognition. The chain is known throughout the area and has bolstered its reputation with consistent equipment investments and a commitment to keeping its sites tidy and in good working order. As a mature business Shammy Shine isn’t reliant on advertising and marketing efforts to grow market share, instead it relies on community building efforts like its charity wash program to stay relevant to its customers.

As the chain has grown it has become more difficult to donate to every charity that comes knocking. In response Shammy Shine has developed a unique fundraising operation. It partners with local charities on year-long revenue sharing campaigns. The non-profit organizations — typically the Boy Scouts, Little League, PTA, etc. — are able to sell gift cards for an entire year and keep a portion of the revenue. Allowing the non-profit organizations to sell the gift cards year round provides greater revenue potential for the charity than a one-day charity wash, while simultaneously having the Shammy Shine name associated with a community organization long-term.

“The non-profit, gift-card revenue share has been real good for us,” Halford says. “It is another way for us to reach out to the community.

The lube center features one single and one double bay.

In addition to its charity efforts the brand is able to build awareness and a bond with the community through the ancillary services it offers. For example at its Clinton, NJ location the wash offers propane tank filling. Although the service is not a great revenue producer and would likely not be included in any new builds Shammy Shine undertakes, it fills a community need. There are no local hardware stores or big box retailers in the area providing the service and the community relies on the wash to provide propane to the town.

Despite its migration to the express model, Shammy Shine still employs around 100 workers, with the majority employed as full-time employees. There is room to grow at Shammy Shine, as management is typically promoted from within. Just like its strong connection with the community, the wash has a strong bond with its workers — there are managers on staff that have been with the wash for 20 years or more. Like the other express locations in the chain, the Phillipsburg-Greenwich location is lean on workers — on a typical day four employees man the quick lube and two are assigned to the car wash.

Shammy Shine has been servicing the community for four decades. At this point in their history most car wash chains begin to deteriorate or sell off their holdings, but not Shammy Shine. The wash is expanding and constantly improving its services relying on innovative programs and technology to keep the brand relevant and growing for years to come.