Most car washes don’t open their doors and instantly have a 30,000-strong customer base, but then again most car washes aren’t Hamilton Car Wash & Detail Center.
The six-month-old wash is built on the property of Hamilton Honda in Hamilton, NJ to service both the dealership’s customers and the general public. For the past seven years every customer that bought a new car at the dealership received free oil changes and car washes for the life of the vehicle.
While the promise of free car washes is certainly a valuable tool for the dealership’s sales staff, it was stretching the location’s one in-bay automatic thin. As the number of cars the automatic wash was processing began to crest the 250-per-day mark the dealership’s management knew it needed to do something to keep pace with demand.
“We got so big that we really had to build a facility to serve our customers,” Victor Thomas the wash’s general manager and director says. “We wanted to generate some revenue from our lifetime wash members. And also open up the facility to the public and grow our wash business.”
What the ownership team of long-time dealership veteran Mike Saporito and ex-NFL players Jessie Armstead and Antonio Pierce built was not just a step beyond their previous car wash capabilities but a quantum leap. Instead of struggling to process 250 cars per day, the new facility is averaging 600 washes without breaking a sweat.
The 145-foot MacNeil-equipped express exterior tunnel wash is coupled with an eight-bay full-service detail center to provide cutting-edge service to long-time and new customers alike. While the vast majority of Hamilton Car Wash’s customers are members of the free car wash club there is still plenty of opportunity for the wash to turn a profit.
Free car wash members are entitled to a free basic wash, but are encouraged to purchase a $3 or $6 upgrade to increase their level of clean. In addition to available upgrades to the car wash services, customers are encouraged to purchase one of the wash’s extremely popular express detail packages.
The wash offers three distinct express detail services, each costing $49, including the ride through the tunnel. The Exterior Wax package features the application of a spray wax and the quick buffing of all exterior surfaces. The Interior Super Clean package features a vacuum, door jam cleaning, dashboard dusting, seat wipe down, mat cleaning, and thorough vacuuming. The Carpet Express provides customers with carpet shampooing, window cleaning, and wheel treatment.
In addition to the express detail services, full-service details are available for around $145 and the exterior only package is just $110. Currently the facility is processing around 20 full-serve details a day with over 40 details not uncommon on busy days.
“Before we built the new facility our detailers were working out of the dealership’s service bays,” Thomas says. “We had some good income coming in from that but since we opened up the dedicated facility revenue and volume has greatly increased.
One of the key reasons for the jump in detail sales numbers is the facility itself. The sparkling new detail center exudes professionalism with gleaming white floors and walls and Vacutech Detail Valets installed in each of the eight bays. The valets contain nearly everything a detailer needs to process a car in one convenient, quick-service location, greatly cutting down on service time and boosting technician efficiency.
Each valet is equipped with a wet/dry vac, a hot water extractor, a steam cleaner, spray wax, wheel cleaner, all purpose cleaner, carpet shampoo, tire dressing, LED lighting, and more. Detailers no longer have to waste valuable time searching for supplies, refilling chemical bottles, and lugging a shop vac from one side of the vehicle to the other. All chemicals are precisely mixed in the back room straight from 55-gallon drums cutting down on chemical waste, and ensuring chemistry is available on-demand whenever it is needed.
“The valets are a new concept and I think this is really going to take off across the industry,” Thomas says. “They provide true time savings. It normally takes anywhere between four and five hours to complete a full-serve detail. With this equipment jobs can be done in as little as two hours.”
The speed with which detailers can now process cars is a boon to Hamilton Car Wash and its detail employees alike. Detailers are paid a flat rate per car and thanks to the time efficiencies introduced by the new equipment have been able to greatly increase their earning potential. The nine-full time detailers are averaging yearly salaries in the $60,000 to $70,000 range.
Since the business was offering full-service detailing prior to the opening of the new facility it had a fully trained and experienced detailing staff on board the day the new facility was open for business. In addition to its veteran detailers, the site is also breaking in some new talent, slowing bringing them onboard with a methodical training method designed to teach rookie detailers the basics first. New detailers are taught how to prep a new car, properly shampoo a vehicle’s interior, use a buffer, and even wet sand a vehicle’s exterior.
In addition to its fully-staffed detail center, the wash also employs two car wash greeters/loaders and a cashier. While their cars travel down the 145-foot tunnel, express detailing customers are encouraged to come inside and enjoy the well-appointed lobby as their car is processed.
The car wash tunnel has all of the next-generation bells and whistles, with two sets of wraps; two sets of high boys; two sets of lower rockers; Gloss Boss; Wheel Boss; a slew of chemical applicators and arches; and 12, 15-hp blowers to ensure the cars are shiny at the tunnel exit.
While business is booming at the new facility, the operators are just barely scratching the surface of the car wash and detail center’s true potential. The new site and services have yet to even be promoted to the general public. Slowly but surely word of mouth is spreading throughout the community and non-unlimited wash club members are filtering onto the site, but they still account for only 15 percent of the site’s total volume.
“We haven’t really advertised yet because we want to make sure we have our processes down,” Thomas says. “Before we really start marketing the wash we want to make sure we can handle the increase in volume without sacrificing quality.”
While the new state-of-the-art facility is still ramping up to its full potential the ownership team is so pleased with the concept that they are already building a near identical wash in Hazelton, PA. They are in the process of building four new car dealerships and a central car wash/detail center that will service all four, plus the public at large, and should be open by May 2016.
Hamilton Car Wash & Detail Center’s unlimited lifetime wash club makes it unique in the world of retail washing and detailing, but what truly makes the business stand out from the crowd is its novel use of modern technology to process cars at lightening speed.