Old Dog, New Trick

By Timothy Denman

10/01/17
Touch Free Carwash in Hallsville, TX features
a Washworld touchless unit.

After years in the car wash industry many operators can get complacent. They stop innovating and their business fades into obscurity. That is not Clay Perkins’ way.

Seventeen years after opening his first wash the veteran car wash owner continues to evolve his business. He has introduced new equipment and services designed to reconnect with his current customer base and draw in new car washers to his rural Texas wash.

Perkins entered the car wash business back in 2000. A friend of his who owned a chain of convenience stores was looking to get into the car wash business and approached Perkins, inviting him to invest in the new venture. Although Perkins had no professional car wash experience, he was intrigued by the offer and joined forces with his frie

The new dog wash delivered ready to install.

“I invested in the wash with him and we opened up three locations together,” Perkins says. “Eventually we ended up selling one of the locations and I bought him out of the other two.”

Perkins operated the two locations by himself for over a decade. The original Touch Free wash in Hallsville, TX featured a touchless wash and an ice machine. Perkins second location in Pine Tree, TX had both a touchless in-bay unit and four self-serve wand bays and was the busier of the two locations.

As any single-operator, self-serve owner can attest running a self-serve business is a lot of work. Although many get into the business dreaming of operating the wash from afar and simply emptying out the coffers every evening, they quickly learn that to successfully run a self-serve location you need to be hands on.

No dryer needed, spot free water does the trick.

Committing the time needed to run two sites by himself and finding time to spend with his family proved to be extremely difficult, prompting Perkins to sell off the busier of his two sites and focus his attention on growing his single location.

“I built it up to where it was very successful,” Perkins says of the Pine Tree location. “But if you own a car wash with hand bays you are pretty much married to it.  You are there all the time. I have four children, three going off to college this year, and I knew that I would be traveling some and I didn’t want to be tied hand and foot to the car wash.”

While downsizing his wash holdings certainly had its benefits for Perkins’ family life, it has one major drawback — it downsized his revenue as well. To help regain some of the lost income from the sale of his Pine Tree location Perkins has invested heavily in his Hallsville site, putting in a new state-of-the-art in-bay automatic and a dog wash unit.

The wash features an in-bay automatic, dog wash,
and an ice machine.

When Perkins and his former partner built Hallsville Touch Free Carwash 17 years ago, they opted for a PDQ Lazerwash unit. Although located in sparsely populated eastern Texas with plenty of dirty, dusty roads, Perkins chose a touch free unit to clean vehicles without the risk of scratching or damaging heavily soiled cars.

“We have a lot of mud and dirt in our area,” Perkin says. “So I try to tout the no brushes, no scratches aspect of the wash. The equipment does a good job cleaning cars.

And I use the best chemicals you can get as far as touch-free applications goes.”

Touch Free operated its original PDQ unit until just recently when Perkin decided it was time to make an upgrade. The old machine was still turning out clean and shiny cars, but continuous maintenance and rusting components announced that Father Time had taken its toll on the old workhorse.


Soaping up man’s best friend.

Further intensifying the need to upgrade the in-bay unit was the arrival of a friction wash just down the street that was threatening to carve a piece out of an already small pie.

“It kind of irked me that there was going to be another automatic wash in a town that small,” Perkins says of his newfound competition in the 3,000-resident strong Hallsville. “I don’t know what his numbers are, I haven’t meet him, but I am sure we do very similar number wise.”

While two washes in a trade area many would theorize could not support one might drive a less determined operator to throw up his hands and close up shop, Perkins embraced the challenge. His newly installed Washworld unit has not only allowed for trouble-free operation, it has helped drive Touch Free’s car counts beyond pre-competition levels. In fact, the new unit has produced a 30 percent jump in traffic over the long-standing location’s established numbers.

Thanks to the reliability of the new unit Perkins “was able to do a lot more customer service and that sparked some new interest in the wash. I try to stay on site as much as I can. I upgrade as many customers as possible. Giving them an Armor All packet or a Little Tree air freshener helps earn their business and make them feel valued.”

With his in-bay business rejuvenated, Perkins turned his attention to creating a new revenue stream with the introduction of a dog wash. The quarter-acre site already housed the in-bay automatic and an ice machine, but with proper planning and a new drive the small lot could host the dog wash and provide a valuable service to the communi

Quick four minute cycle times mean there is rarely a wait.
The touch free unit in action.

Hallsville residents love to take their dogs with them to the lake in the summer and out in the field in the fall during hunting season. After a day of splashing at the lake or tracking game man’s best friend needs a bath before returning home and Perkins’ Clean Pup Pet Wash offers a quick, easy, and affordable option to home washing or expensive groomer fees.

“I was in the market for a dog wash and I came across All Paws,” Perkins says. “I was really impressed with the machine and I ended up buying a standalone unit. They shipped the entire unit in on an 18-wheeler. I had a forklift onsite when they arrived and picked it up set it on the ground. The electrician and plumber did their thing and we were ready to go very quickly. You pretty much just drop it down and go, it was an easy set up.”

Perkins opened Clean Pup in June of this year to an overwhelmingly positive response from the community. The site is averaging four to five dog washes a day and has cleaned as many as 15 dogs in a day.

The service costs $10 for 12 minutes of wash time, with additional time available for a few dollars more, although it is rarely needed. The average dog wash is trending around eight minutes giving the dog owner plenty of time to rinse down the washtub and floor, sanitizing it for the next customer.

In addition to the disinfectant spray, the vending dial features tearless shampoo, oatmeal shampoo, flea and tick shampoo, conditioner, deodorizers, rinse, dryer, and vacuum settings.

“Once we were up and running I started promoting the new service on Facebook and it went crazy from there,” says Perkins. “One of the things I put on the Facebook page is ‘your second largest investment is your automobile, keep it and your best friend clean.’

“My ultimate goal is to capture the redneck bandit. He has his dog sitting beside him with a cooler in the back. He can get ice, wash his truck, and wash his dog all at the same time.”

Many operators might have buried their heads in the sand if a new operator moved into their small market and threatened to take a major portion of their revenue. Perkins however responded with a major equipment investment to transform his location and drive revenue to new heights in the face of increased competition.



LATEST ISSUES

click me