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Have a Holly, Jolly Car Wash!
By Bill Paris

Santa Claus greets all visitors, and answers kids' questions during Christmas!

Cromwell, CT is known for three things - being in the approximate geographical center of the state (what they call "at the crossroads of Connecticut") along I-91; the home of Canon's Greater Hartford Open (GHO) PGA Tour; and the site of Classic Auto Wash.

Classic Auto has been a staple of the town since 1986, when 35-year garment business veteran Anacleto Vento founded it at 23 Shunpike Road. Anacleto had a bit of experience in the car care industry, as he was a silent partner of the establishment formerly known as Pronto Car Wash in New Britain, CT. He knew it was the time to go into business for himself when the garment industry itself began to have competition from cheaper labor in Asia.

Enter Vinny Vento, Anacleto's son. Vinny formerly worked at Pronto for nine years, although he originally earned a trade in metalworking. He was so passionate about creating things that he fashioned a working four-foot miniature lighthouse, which he decorated the frontage of Classic Auto with! Little did he know that this would be the start of something very big.

The site is an acre and a half on a plot of land known as the "Golden Triangle," formed by Shunpike Road (Route 3), Berlin Road, and the even busier Route 372. The daily traffic count on Shunpike Road is roughly 30,000 vehicles, neighboring such franchises as McDonalds, Taco Bell, Dunkin' Donuts, KFC, and Hollywood Video. Many people saw what Vinny did, and he received a lot of positive feedback.

"People really liked it," beams the mustachioed Vinny. "We got a lot of positive response, and it was something for people to talk about." Vinny decided to give the lighthouse some company by adding a windmill, which also garnered more praise. He added more and more homemade creations, as well as salvaged items that were destined for the dumpster. A weathervane-festooned cupola from a local Friendly's Restaurant adorns the roof of the self-serve building. The 20-foot Santa Claus from a now-defunct department store in Vermont greets customers from the street, and answers kids' questions (thanks to a speaker connected to a headset mike that Vinny wears) during Christmas.

In fact, every day seems like Christmas at Classic Auto, especially since every part of the wash seems replete with "toys"! The head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, made from scratch by Vinny's cousin Andy Giarnella, explodes out of the top of the entrance to the tunnel. A clown figurine oversees the work being done in the detail shop. The kid-sized large model steam train awaits customers near the vacuum kiosks. In a booth near the rug beater and vending machines, a life-sized effigy of Clark Kent makes a phone call. Statues worthy of a miniature-golf course line the path towards the self-serve wash. Don't forget the multitude of lawn ornaments on the frontage, too!

These eye-candy canes are a great way to bring you to Classic Auto, but what services does it provide? Its self-serve wash and Hydro-Spray in-bay touchless wash (with spot-free rinse) are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week - lit up at night by better-than-Rudolph 500-watt lamps! It also boasts a
95-foot Belanger tunnel housed inside a 110-foot building, open Monday through Saturday (7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Sunday (7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The conveyor wash cleans with SuperSat and Simoniz detergents, and waxes with Turtle Wax and Blue Coral products. Eighty horsepower WolrdWide blowers and Microfiber towels dry off your vehicles better than wet clothes on a steam heater after a snowball fight. This three-ring circus of clean is more than enough to handle any car care needs when dashing through the snow (and the accompanying sand and salt) in the winter, as well as "green snow" (as Vinny nicknames pollen) during the warmer months.

There are a variety of packages to choose from, too. A plain all-cloth wash is a mere $6, and is a "number 7" on the menu. For the economy-minded there's the "Classic Special," which includes a wash, hot wax and undercarriage wash for only $7. Number 2 includes an all-cloth wash and high-tech poly-sealant foam for $8. If you add in an undercarriage wash to that, add an extra dollar. A sawbuck is all it takes to get the number 4, which is all-cloth wash, polish foam wax, undercarriage wash and rust inhibitor. "The Works" is a cloth wash, hot wax, hi-tech poly-sealant foam, undercarriage wash and rust-inhibitor, for $12. For those looking for an all-cloth wash, high-pressure Simoniz poly-glaze, polish foam wax, undercarriage wash and rust inhibitor, then invest $13 in a number 6 "30-Day Shine". For the same price, you can get a "Clear Coat," comprised of an all-cloth wash, blue coral clear coat protection process, rust inhibitor and undercarriage wash. "Classic's Ultimate Quadruple Poly-Protection" is number 9 on the menu, spoiling your vehicle with wash rust inhibitor, undercarriage wash, high-pressure poly-glaze and three-step Simoniz foam poly-wax for $16. Finally, for a dollar less the number 10 satisfies with two-stage diamond plate system, two foamy washes, under carriage and rust inhibitor, and high-pressure poly-glaze. And a partridge in a pear tree!

If bringing smiles to the faces of kids and adults alike could make Vinny comparable to Santa, then certainly he has hardworking elves. The head "elf" is Dave Syntlo, who details cars better than the North Pole produces toys - in fact Classic Auto averages $145 per car in the detailing area. Vinny and Dave are the only two on the lot cross-trained for the car wash as well as detailing. The rest of the staff is comprised of two part-time and two full-time elves. Some of the workers have been working there for more than twelve years!

Despite the fact that Vinny has not advertised in 12 years (it's all been word of mouth), Classic Auto Wash has flourished to become the most talked-about car-care facility in the area. What started as a Belanger tunnel and four self-serve bays grew to include two more self-serve bays, two touchless wash bays and a detailing area! The effort he put into the decorations, as well as the
landscaping by the detailing and touchless wash, shows that this Santa Claus works more than just one day a year - and it is worth it.


AUTO LAUNDRY NEWS is published by EW Williams Publications Company
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