Building a successful car wash chain requires a solid business plan, operational knowhow, and a keen understanding of the local market.
By Timothy Denman
Building a successful car wash chain requires a solid business plan, operational knowhow, and a keen understanding of the local market. It also requires a meaningful and genuine connection with the local community that leads to long-term loyalty.
To build that connection Soapy Joe’s Car Wash has been giving back to the San Diego community since its inception 10 years ago. Its annual Soapy Joe’s Day supports local organizations and has become a mainstay of the community and was even named an official event by the city’s mayor.
The annual affair, which has morphed into a month-long celebration rather than a one-day event, honors a different group each year. Last year the wash honored healthcare workers, providing free washes for front-line medical professionals all month long. This year the Soapy Joe’s team turned their attention to educators, granting free washes to teachers. Over its 10-year history the 14-location chain has donated nearly 100,000 free washes to the community.
This year, in addition to the free washes to local educators, the wash donated $10,000 to the San Diego Center for Children, which provides evidence-based therapeutic and educational services to children and families struggling with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.
“The past year has been tough for us all, and has especially impacted our youth, their families, and teachers in the community,” says Lorens Attisha, CEO of Soapy Joe’s. “On Soapy Joe’s Day, we want to help support our kids and educators in San Diego, which is why we’ve chosen to give back to the San Diego Center for Children. The organization does amazing work for San Diego families, and we are proud to partner with them. We also wanted to honor educators within the community for their commitment to our children this past year.”
While civic responsibility and community involvement are vital to Soapy Joe’s success, its ability to provide a clean, shiny, and dry car is what keeps customers coming back again and again. The growing chain was founded by Attisha a decade ago when the industry veteran branded a handful of sites as Soapy Joe’s and began serving the San Diego community. Soapy Joe’s was the first express wash to open in the market and introduced the Southern California crowd to the concept.
Attisha grew Soapy Joe’s organically over the next few years expanding throughout the four corners of San Diego. While the wash was a market leader and a recognized force in the community, it had not reached its full potential. A few years ago Attisha decided to take the wash to the next level and bring in a new executive team to help supercharge operations and scale the chain.
“We are a very people focused company, which really sets us apart,” says senior vice president of operations Isaac Lee. “We focus on culture, growing our teams, and developing our people. We built an executive team to take that vision even further. We sat down and updated our mission, vision, and values to reflect who we are, what we’re trying to do, and where we’re trying to go.”
At its core Soapy Joe’s is a car wash, but the executive team is charged with making it more than just a place to get your car clean.
“Obviously, we are a wash, but there is a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes here that is really driving the business,” says Lee. “We are a technology and membership company focused on taking care of our customers and members and payingit forward.”
Like most successful express chains throughout the country, Soapy Joe’s has a thriving unlimited membership program. The wash offers three menu levels starting with the basic Classic Joe wash. The basic exterior treatment costs $10 for a single wash and $15 for an unlimited monthly plan. For $15 for a single wash or $20 for the membership customers can opt for the Super Joe which adds rain repellent, tire shine, and triple conditioner. The top-of-the-line Magic Joe costs $20 for a single wash and $35 for the monthly plan and adds wax, magic seal, magic glaze to the offering.
“The Magic Joe is our top package and quite a few of our members enjoy that one,” says Lee. “But overall, we have a pretty even mix in membership packages as far as usage goes.”
To drive membership and overall traffic to the site Soapy Joe’s relies on its award-winning marketing team to build innovative and engaging campaigns and promotions. The team manages the annual Soapy Joe’s Day event as well as standalone events like the Tunnel of Love, which incentivized customers to get engaged at a Soapy Joe’s site. The popular promotion became a social media hit and earned the team a Gold Stevie Award for the PR Campaign of the Year at the 19th Annual American Business Awards.
While awards and accolades are a plus and help highlight the innovative and differentiated work being done at Soapy Joe’s, for the wash’s management it is still all about people. As the chain looks to continue to scale over the coming years the team will remain steadfast in its commitment to providing a meaningful and differentiated, community-focused experience for its customers and members.
Name: Soapy Joe’s Car Wash
Location: San Diego, CA
Owner: Lorens Attisha
Concept: Express Exterior
Tunnel Equipment: Sonny’s
Pay Stations: DRB