The view of the newly renovated tunnel from the lobby.
Car washes come and go in the modern here-today-gone-tomorrow world — even those sites that are handed down from generation to generation rarely have more than a few decades under their belts. But on occasion a site is able to stand the test of time, enduring the ups and downs as the calendar continues to turn.
Paul Tocci Sr. built Belmont Car Wash & Detail Center 50 years ago and his sons recently completed a major renovation at the site just in time for the 50th anniversary.
Paul Jr. owns the Belmont, MA wash and his brother Adam is the site’s general manager. As Adam points out, a car wash is never complete as it is constantly refined and reequipped to keep pace with the latest technology, but following its latest renovation the wash should be in good shape until the next generation of Toccis is ready to take the reins.
Kaitlyn Denzer, vice chairman Sami Baghdady, Adam Tocci, Paul Tocci, chief Richard McLaughlin, chief David Frizzell and Laura Denzer pose for the ribbon cutting atthe 50th anniversary celebration.
The 135-foot, express-exterior tunnel was completely restocked with Simoniz and Sonny’s equipment, doubling the amount of equipment present in the tunnel. Among the upgrades the tunnel was outfitted with additional mitters, wrap around brushes, and Simoniz’s newest Lava offering to increase the show.
Wipe downs have been performed by female staff for years.
Despite all of the latest bells and whistles adorning the tunnel, Adam can still remember how the tunnel looked when he was a child with workers standing in a trench scrubbing the sides of the cars by hand as they were pulled down the hook-and-chain conveyor. “Obviously things have evolved over the years,” Adam says. “But we still try to continue to give our customers the personal touch.”
Belmont Car Wash has grown with the times, putting the full-serve, hand wash days in the rear view, opting instead for a fully-automated express exterior experience — albeit with an old school twist.
The wash is not your typical express location, with a stripped down staff and limited service offerings. The site employs between 40 and 50 workers with as many as 30 on site at any one time. Employees are there to provide the personal experience manning the POS units, directing customers onto the conveyor, and wiping down cars by hand at the tunnel’s exit.
Express detailing has grown in importance over the years.
The women at the tunnel exit are a nice touch, but the majority of the large staff is charged with servicing the wash’s booming express detailing business. In the past, the site’s detailing offerings were of the full serve variety, but as the Toccis have discovered an extensive express detailing menu is increasingly becoming a market differentiator.
Where the old style, full-serve details would take upwards of four hours and require a highly-trained staff to complete, express services can be performed in minutes with minimal training. The site offers five express exterior options all of which can be completed in 15 to 20 minutes. The most popular menu option is the Super Interior Cleaning. The package includes a thorough vacuuming, window cleaning, and interior dressing.
The interior package helps Belmont battle what Adam considers one of the greatest car wash disruptors of all time: The Five Day Forecast. The advent of long-term weather prediction changed customer buying habits, deterring motorists from running their car through the tunnel when storm clouds were predicted later in the week.
“The package gives customers the opportunity to get their interior detailed when rain is in the forecast,” Adam says. “They can get their interior done off line and done correctly with a process that is standardized. It really gives them a bang for their buck and what put us into the express detail market.”
The wash might have evolved over the years to keep pace with market demands, but one thing has stayed constant across the decades: the Toccis care about Belmont. Both Adam and Paul Jr. grew up in the town as did their other brother Christian, who is a Belmont fire fighter.
“Despite the changes, economic highs and lows, weather patterns, and everything that can affect the car wash business the key to our success is our roots,” Adam says. “We are tightly tied to the community and we care about the town. And I like to think it shows.”
The wash hosts six big fundraisers every year that benefit the local community. On a busy Saturday the charity organization takes over the towel drying duties for the day and is able to keep any tips they receive plus a piece of the wash’s revenue for the day.
In addition to the fundraisers hosted on the site, Belmont Car Wash sponsors a host of door prizes, raffle prizes, and charity golf holes throughout the year. On average the wash makes two donations every month to a local charity valued at $100 or more in merchandise and services.
The wash’s owners are respected not only throughout the community but among the staff as well. Once a month the Toccis host a company pizza night to help build employee engagement while serving the dual function of a training session. During each pizza night the staff is briefed on a different aspect of car washing to ensure that all services are performed consistently.
“We have a great long-term staff,” Adam says. “We have even seen the children of our staff starting to work for us. It is becoming generational for them as well which is nice.”
Speaking of generational transition Adam and Paul are already gearing up for the eventual passing of the torch to the next generation.
Adam’s children, Adam Jr. (21) and Meghan (19), have already shown an interest in the business as has Paul’s children, Brooke (24), Jessica (22), and Paul III (20).
The tunnel exit and express detailing area.
“The two boys have shown the most interest in the wash at this point,” Adam says. “But the girls are interested as well and each one brings a different skill set to the table. My daughter for instance is a marketing wiz and has already done a lot of marketing work for the wash with our website and social media channels.”
During the 50th anniversary celebration 1964 model cars were on hand and classic $1 wash pricing was offered.