Andy's Success is Clear
Jim and Elaine Norland
|The conveyor is in the foreground;
six self-service bays are arranged along its rear.
Andy's Car Wash moved a mile further out from a long-established
location, opened the month following the 9/11 terrorist attacks
when the economy was down, and had lousy weather not only on opening
day but during most of the following weeks.
Despite all those negative factors, Andy's new location in Bluffton,
Indiana saw a 30 percent increase in wash volume as well as a 50-cent-per-car
gain in average revenue.
It's easy to see why. The first Lighthouse conveyor car wash in
the world is in operation at Andy's new location at 1930 North Main
Street in Bluffton, and it's a community success.
|Welcome to the tunnel!
Customers have been lured by the wash's brilliant lighting and
colorful "show," as well as the clean and showy vehicles
it delivers. The wash gives customers options within the Lighthouse
structure, not only several price-and-feature combos on the conveyor
wash itself but also a choice of self-serve washing in six standard
bays and two large RV-size bays.
The newest Andy's Car Wash in Bluffton is the Anderson family's
third in 30 years in this 10,000-population community. The first
was when James F. and Betty L. Anderson opened Bluffton's first
conveyorized wash, a Hanna-equipped operation. That wash was succeeded
by another, on a different site, in the 1980s.
Kevin Anderson, their son, bought out the operation over 20 years
ago. He now runs Andy's Car Washes in three northeastern Indiana
communities with his wife, Marsha.
The most recent incarnation of Andy's Car Wash in Bluffton occupies
a new location that, with its Lighthouse structure, seems to attract
business not only for itself but also is attracting other businesses
to its surroundings.
The structure was so impressive and attractive that even though
there was just a four-hour window of decent weather on opening day,
600 cars were washed in that time.
Businesses seem drawn to the bright new operation, too. Blockbuster
is moving in next door, Applebee's restaurants are coming into the
neighborhood very soon, and a CVS drugstore is moving in directly
across the street from the new Andy's Car Wash.
The 105-foot path of the conveyorized wash doesn't feel like a
tunnel because the entire wash operation
is housed in glass panels and is brightly lit, eliminating any of
the claustrophobic feeling sometimes associated with traditional
wash tunnel structures, Kevin Anderson told Auto Laundry News in
a recent interview.
In fact, the glass walls and exterior of the wash attract customers
even when the conveyorized wash itself isn't operating. Drivers
can still use the self-serve wash bays at any time of day or night.
who come in for a self-serve wash change their minds when they see
the conveyorized wash in operation, Kevin Anderson says. "They
put their change back in their pockets and head around for the conveyorized
The lights are always on at Andy's, although the conveyorized wash
operates from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to
7 p.m. on Sunday.
Andy's concentrates entirely on car washing, not on gas sales or
convenience store operation often associated with washes. Andy's
doesn't offer detailing or lube services at any location. With only
one profit center per location, that focuses all effort on attracting
car wash customers and keeping them as regulars, particularly in
the small communities where all three Andy's Car Washes are located.
"In a larger market you might be able to depend on attracting
new customers to keep operating profitably," Kevin Anderson
says, "but here we run out of new customers in about two weeks
and we had better be able to keep them coming back." Each of
the three counties with Andy's locations has about 30,000 residents.
The Andersons have succeeded in keeping those customers coming
back, but the new Lighthouse operation at Bluffton may build that
loyalty even further and bring customers back more frequently.
"Because the Lighthouse building is unique, it helps an operator
differentiate his operation," explains Steve Yastrow, Lighthouse
Carwash marketing executive. Customer surveys at a Lighthouse location
in Indianapolis show that even in that metropolitan market, 60 percent
of customers are repeat users and 98 percent indicate an intent
to come back, he reports.
The Andy's Car Wash in Bluffton is unique beyond its structure
and appearance. The wash equipment is of Kevin Anderson's own design.
He patented that design five years ago to avoid what he feels is
the unnecessary complexity of many other equipment arrays now marketed
to car wash operators.
On his wraparounds, the arm itself is just 3.5 feet long. On the
centerline shaft that holds the Neoglide material, the arms actually
cross over on the front of the vehicle "so you have the capability
of washing the front of the vehicle almost twice with the same lineal
feet of movement on the conveyor," he explains.
"Normal wraparounds or flex arms cannot overlap the centerline
shaft without causing considerable
damage. My wraps work with the simplicity of gravity. They contour
the side to gently wash the vehicle instead of relying on extreme
Andy's Car Wash in Decatur, Indiana, about 20 miles east of Bluffton,
was built from scratch
15 years ago and operates with equipment Kevin designed. The Andy's
in Columbia City, Indiana, about 45 miles northwest of Bluffton,
may soon have the gravity wrap system as well. It was acquired just
three years ago.
|Bird's eye view of the self-service
Lighthouse car wash locations elsewhere have combined automatic
and self-service bays, but Andy's Bluffton unit has a total of eight
self-serve bays in addition to the conveyorized wash. The two larger
bays can accommodate recreational vehicles, trailers, boats, large
dump trucks and even complete semis in a self-serve environment.
Those larger bays are already being used by some regular Andy's
customers to detail larger vehicles to prepare them for sale. "They'll
come in and degrease the complete engine, body and frame and then
take it back to the paint shop," Kevin Anderson explains. "We
are just now preparing to add another sign to our marquee advertising
our RV bays to market them to the general public."
He had held off on such promotion until he had a feel for how customers
would use those large bays. He didn't want any greasy or messy appearance
in those bays, and they are regularly monitored by himself and his
uniformed employees. "We can look right through and see what
type of activity is going on in those big bays, and it's very common
for us to walk out and ask customers to clean up after themselves.
If customers have a problem with that, they're not invited back."
Overseeing operations at Bluffton is relatively easy, not only
because the facility is well-staffed during operating hours of the
conveyor wash but also because the Andersons have a 2,000-square-foot
office with excellent visibility on an upstairs level of the Lighthouse
building. Kevin often walks out into the
wash and gives a sign of greeting to customers either in the conveyor
wash or in the self-serve bays.
Even though the conveyorized wash and the operation of self-serve
bays is automatic and wouldn't seem to require much personal attention,
Andy's customers expect and get that personal touch from the time
they enter the property.
For example, as they enter the conveyorized wash and choose their
wash package, they might tell the attendant they have a heavy bug
problem on the front of the car. Andy's employees take care of
that right away, before the car begins its conveyor trip. "We
detail tremendously," Kevin Anderson says.
"Customers expect us to be personal with them, and we are."
Washes in the conveyorized operation are priced at $6, $8, $10
and $12. The lowest-priced wash is the basic exterior wash. At $8,
the wash includes better wheel cleaning and either underbody or
clear-coat service. The $10 "Weatherbeater" wash includes
wheels, clear-coat and underbody treatment, and the "Works"
package includes all that plus a clear foaming application.
Andy's has a simple and inexpensive frequency discount. Customers
can buy a certificate for two washes and get $1 off each, and they
can buy any number of certificates they want. "A lot of car
washes depend on Christmas, Mother's Day or Father's Day to sell
books of washes, but that may require them to spend $30 or $40 at
once. We encourage and allow our customers to buy the certificates
the entire year, either to use themselves or give away," Kevin
All three Andy's Car Washes utilize a bright and easily recognized
color scheme, yellow and red and black with a touch of green. Lighthouse
offers a wide range of standard as well as custom colors, so incorporating
the company colors in the new structure was easy. "The building
enhances what we do," says Kevin Anderson. "It just looks
clean and bright all the time." The site is attractively landscaped
with trees, shrubbery and grass.
Those colors are also embodied in the company's four-color logo
and in company-furnished uniforms worn by all 25 employees. Employees
can choose which color they want to wear each day, an option they
seem to like, the Andersons report.
Adam Anderson, the younger son of Kevin and Marsha Anderson, is
the company's human resource specialist, and is in charge of hiring
new employees. "He's a third-generation car washer, and his
specialty is people," Kevin says.
While most new hires come from recommendations of present employees,
they are carefully screened. "We don't hire them if they just
fog a mirror. We look for a responsible person who can greet and
take care of our customers."
Jobs at Andy's have ample monetary rewards. Andy's pays well above
the minimum wage and each employee gets commission as well. Those
of school or college age are also allowed to study on the job. "We
want them to want to work for Andy's," Kevin Anderson says.
The combination of bright and attractive facilities, customer-friendly
employees and personal attention to the car cleaning needs of their
mostly repeat clients seems to be a winning recipe for Andy's.
The latest enhancement of that will be seen at Andy's Car Wash
in Columbia City. Four self-serve bays will be housed in a new Lighthouse
unit there, a separate structure on the same property as the traditional-looking
conveyorized wash already operating there.
Part of the successful mixture that seems to work so well at Andy's
may also be passed along to other car wash operators. Since he and
the principals of Lighthouse Carwash worked out the design and layout
of the first conveyorized Lighthouse installation, Kevin Anderson
is now the Lighthouse representative for conveyorized car washes.
Jim and Elaine Norland are regular
contributors to Auto Laundry News.