Industry Loses Two Leaders
Within a short space of time, the car wash industry has lost two important contributors to its history, development, and success. In April, Sonny Fazio, founder of Sonny’s Enterprises Inc., passed away. A few weeks later, in May, Mac McElroy, founder and CEO of Proto-Vest Inc., died. Sonny and Mac were long-time friends, separated in age by a mere eight days.
Salvatore “Sonny” Fazio succumbed to illness on April 17, 2013. He was 86.
Fazio entered the car wash business in 1949 in the Boston area as the owner/operator of a full-service car wash. The one wash eventually grew to a multi-location, multi-state operation, with Fazio’s sons, Michael and Paul, joining the business along the way.
Having retired to Florida and not entirely happy with that circumstance, Fazio founded SF Inc. in 1978 to, as he put it, “sell replacement parts and cut synthetic Chamois” for automatic drying curtains. The limited nature of this operation did not last long. In 1982, SF Inc. became Sonny’s Enterprises Inc. and along with the name change came the addition of a full line of tunnel equipment. Today, Sonny’s The Car Wash Factory is the largest manufacturer of conveyorized car wash equipment, parts, and supplies in the world.
His peers recognized Fazio’s leadership role. In 1997
the International Carwash Association inducted him into
the Car Wash Hall of Fame — the industry’s highest honor. In 2011, the Western Carwash Association honored Fazio with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, created to recognize and honor the lifetime achievements of an individual or manufacturer that has made an invaluable and measurable impact on the past, present, and future of the car wash industry.
A statement released April 18 by the company he founded reads in part: “[Sonny Fazio inspired] everyone he encountered to do more, to be more, to try harder. His energy, enthusiasm, and love so freely given will be deeply missed.”
Lucian Grant “Mac” McElroy died in a car accident on May 8, 2013. He was 86.
McElroy tested his entrepreneurial skills in 1949, founding his first company in Highland Park, MI. For the next 30 years he was involved in the automotive, petroleum, aerospace, and defense industries. American Dynamics, one of his companies, built parts for the US government.
In 1970, McElroy, along with Richard C. Unruh, cofounded Proto-Vest Inc., the dryer technology company. The name “Proto-Vest” stands for prototype investments. McElroy moved the company in 1996 from Michigan to Glendale, AZ. In 1979, McElroy and one other received a patent for the Stripper, perhaps Proto-Vest’s signature product. McElroy found it necessary to protect his intellectual property rights, prevailing in litigation alleging patent infringement. McElroy went on to accumulate some 40 patents in the United States and Canada.
McElroy, too, was honored by the industry. In 2002 he was inducted into the Car Wash Hall of Fame during Car Care World Expo in Chicago. The Timothy McElroy Foundation was established in 2003 to honor McElroy’s son, Tim, who was president of Proto-Vest Inc. from 1995 until his death in 2001. The foundation is a non-profit organization that raises money to provide deserving students with 100 percent of the funds needed to earn a college degree.
A statement released May 9 by the company he founded reads in part: “Mac was a vivacious leader with a passion for life. He celebrated innovation and worked with an ethic that very few can achieve. Here’s to a life well lived. Mac, you were one of a kind.”