Pick Your Shine
Choosing a format for a new facility is always a difficult task. Fortunately for the owners of Redline Speed Shine that was one challenge they didn’t have to endure: they simply decided to build them all.
Tom and Amy Gravine opened two new Redline Speed Shines in State College, PA one year apart and offer residents of Central Pennsylvania a bevy of wash options.
Redline provides tunnel services, in-bay automatics, self-serve bays, and even a dog wash option at its two locations. Redline One — as the owners call it — opened in November of 2009 on busy North Atherton Street. The street is home to numerous businesses and retail destinations and is the main road leading to the town’s proudest establishment: Penn State University.
Redline One can be described in a word: humongous. The 14,000-plus square foot building is a few feet shy of a football field in length, and sits on almost three acres of land. The enormous building houses the 100-foot tunnel, a 45-foot touch-free automatic bay, seven self-serve bays, a detail center, two dog wash stations, and a customer waiting room/lobby.
“My wife and I had this vision of bringing a truly one-of-a-kind customer-focused wash to State College,” Tom Gravine says. “We didn’t want to have one service and not another. We wanted to build a place that was comfortable and friendly for both the customers and the staff. A place that had everything and made customers want to keep coming back.”
Keep coming back they have. Redline One is averaging over 5,000 cars through the tunnel and producing $2,000 of revenue per self-serve bay per month. “The services really complement each other well,” Gravine says. “Sometimes I see a customer go through the tunnel and the next time I see them they are in a self-serve bay. It is a good mix.”
In addition to the mix of services, the facility relies on a mix of equipment suppliers. The tunnel is outfitted with Sonny’s equipment, the touch-free is Oasis, the self-serve bays sport Carolina Pride, and the dog wash equipment is provided by TMC Dog Wash Solutions.
The self-serve bays and in-bay automatic are open 24/7, while the tunnel, detail center, and dog wash are open Monday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Manning the wash during regular business hours are six to eight members of the 15-person-strong wash staff. Two employees pre-treat cars before they enter the tunnel, two are positioned at the tunnel exit for wipe downs and interior service, and two employees are free to roam the site helping out when needed and interacting with customers. Tom is on site everyday, and handles the day-to-day operations of both locations, while Amy keeps the books in order.
The full-serve tunnel menu features three exterior wash options priced at $10, $14, and $16. An interior cleaning can be added to any package for an additional $8. Those customers that get to Redline early, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., can take advantage of the early bird special and receive $2 off which-ever wash option they choose. The most popular choice is the $14 wash package that features an undercarriage wash, wheel brightener, clear-coat protectant, spot-free rinse, and a super dry.
Redline One’s two-bay detail center can service up to six cars at a time — each bay can accommodate up to three cars. The ultra-modern center has drops for all major chemicals as well as an airline at each service station. An interior detail costs $99.95 and an exterior is $79.95 — both services can be purchased together for $149.95, an almost $30 savings. Express services are also offered.
Shortly after the couple opened Redline One they began thinking about building their second location. “We started talking about expanding not long after we opened,” Gravine says. “Four months after we opened plans were drawn up and construction meetings were held. Things started happening very quickly from there.”
State College is a pretty big area and Gravine wanted to ensure that customers on both sides of town could enjoy the Redline experience. Once plans were in place, construction began rather quickly and by November of 2010 Redline Two was open for business. Unlike Redline One’s real estate, which had an older wash on site prior to being completely demolished and rebuilt, Redline Two was built on a previously undeveloped piece of land.
The newest edition to the Redline brand has one PDQ and two Sonny’s in-bay units, as well as five self-serve bays once again outfitted with Carolina Pride.
Redline Two is on the growing east side of town, just three miles from the university, amid a strong retail presence. The second location has been open less than five months, but has already exceeded expectations, washing between 4,000 and 6,000 cars a month.
Helping the newest Redline hit its stride early are the washes’ monthly memberships and RFID programs. Members of the unlimited monthly wash club can get their cars serviced at either loca-tion. “The new location has really helped us expand our monthly wash club,” Gravine says.
The two Redline locations have the virtual run of the town. There is only one other wash option in State College; a hand wash which services a different kind of wash customer. “They are a hand wash,” Gravine says of the competition. “A wash there takes longer. They service a different kind of clientele. Our name speaks for itself. We are Redline Speed Shine.”
Customers opting for just an exterior package at Redline can be through the tunnel and back on the street in as little as five minutes. An interior treatment will increase that time to 15 minutes during peak hours.
As anyone who has visited central Pennsylvania in the winter months knows, College Park can get downright frigid. Operating self-serve bays in the dead of winter can be a challenge, but Redline has a major weapon against the winter freeze: geo-thermal heating. Both Redline locations are kept warm through heating elements installed in the floor. Further helping to battle the bitter cold are front and rear garage doors installed in all the self-serve bays.
“There has been a great response to our heating system,” Gravine says. “We have gotten voicemails on the work phone at 2 a.m. from customers saying ‘it is -2 degrees outside and I am washing my car in your self-serve bay in jeans and a T-shirt.’ We want our customers to be as comfortable as possible.”
Heating all of the necessary water for the geo-thermal systems are high-efficiency water heaters. The washes’ environmental consciousness goes even further, recycling 80 percent of the wash water and utilizing energy-efficient lighting solutions.
Helping to draw customers into both locations is a dynamic marketing plan that includes television, radio, brochures, and signage. “We were very aggressive with our marketing when we opened,” Gravine says. “In addition to our advertising we rely on word of mouth. Also, we have ICS Auto Sentrys that we have set up to sell monthly passes right at the kiosk which has worked out well.”
Having opened two washes within a year, the Gravines are content to sit back and catch their breath, but a third Redline is not out of the question. “If the opportunity presents itself and our volume continues to grow we would definitely consider expansion,” Gravine says.
With as many wash options and auxiliary businesses as two or three washes combined, further cornering the wash market in State College could be a real possibility.