Profile in Success - January 2010

Solar Rises in the West
By Timothy Denman

The full-serve detail center can service two cars at a time. Notice the solar panels over the tunnel entrance.
The view from busy Route 10 West.

Bo and Irene Ferenc have always been committed to the environment, and after 20 years in the car wash business have taken the next step towards the elusive “green” wash.

The Ferencs opened West 10 Car Wash and Detail Center in Succasunna, NJ in 1989. From day one, the express exterior has been curtailing its water usage through reclaim (only six gallons of fresh water is used per car), and over the years has adopted environmentally safe wash chemicals as they became available.

In celebration of their 20th year in business, the Ferencs have taken their environmental efforts to the next level with the installation of a solar power system.

The Solar Center of Rockaway, NJ provided the system that features two groupings of solar panels that produce 40 percent of the wash’s power. In addition to the utility bill savings, the system also produces revenue through credits that are sold back to the utility provider. The newly installed system is projected to produce over $155,000 in revenue over the next 15 years.

“For our 20th anniversary we wanted to do something environmentally sound,” Irene says. “With the current economy it is important to see where you can make some added savings. We aren’t planning on going anywhere for a while so solar power was a perfect fit.”

Further motivating the Ferencs to install the system were state tax rebates and federal grants available to any business producing solar power.

“About 55 percent of the installation costs were covered by tax rebates and grants,” Daniel Kaberabek of The Solar Center says. “The system can utilize accelerated depreciation, bringing the payback period to a conservative four years.”

Once the solar system was up and running, the Ferencs hosted a 20th anniversary and ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate. The event was attended by the mayor, local councilmen, and was covered by the local paper.

The wash’s tunnel is 120 feet with a 110-foot conveyor — the extra interior room houses the covered greeter station. Once aboard the conveyor, customers are treated to a ride through the well-maintained Belanger-equipped tunnel.

 
One of the many signs at West 10 that promotes the wash’s “green” efforts.
Seven self-serve coin-operated vacuums greet customers at the tunnel’s exit.

“Most of our equipment is original,” Irene says. “We pride ourselves on taking care of the equipment. We have daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance programs in place.”

Upon exiting the tunnel, customers can make a purchase at the small vending area or utilize one of the wash’s seven coin-operated self-serve vacuums.

Although dedicated to maintaining their original equipment, the Ferencs are always looking for ways to improve the wash. West 10 will be receiving a new conveyor and drying system in the near future to keep up with industry trends.

One recent equipment purchase that fit nicely into the Ferencs’ philosophy on business improvement and environmental stewardship was West 10’s waste oil powered heating system. The system was installed a few years ago to help curtail heating costs and do something positive for the environment.

The fuel for the heating system comes from West 10’s two-bay oil change center. The lube center is attached to a tire center. Although the tire business is not owned by the Ferencs, the two businesses have a solid working relationship and feed each other clients.

The lube center offers a full-service oil change for $32.95 that includes the checking and filling of all major fluids, a window washing, tire inflation, vacuuming, and an interior fragrance. Also, all full-serve oil change customers receive a coupon for $2 off at the car wash.

West 10’s wash menu offers customers three options: a basic Exterior Wash, a Complete Wash & Wax, and The Works. The Exterior Wash cost $7.75 and features a soft-cloth wash, a whitewall tire brightener, a non-contact dryer, and a towel dry. The Complete Wash & Wash improves upon the Exterior with a sealer wax and buff’n polish for $9. The $10 Works wash adds undercarriage treatment and wash sealant.

For $30, West 10 provides an express detailing package entitled Quick Wax Service. The
service includes a wash, wheel brightener, tire dressing, and hand wax performed in 30 minutes.

Those customers looking to go beyond a simple car wash can make an appointment in the two-bay detail center. Two exterior packages are available: Express Service and Supreme Service. The $60 Express features a one-step cleaner, polish, and wax; vacuum; window and wheel cleaning; and exterior Armor All. The Supreme costs $89 and features a three-step compound polish and wax; vacuum, window and wheel cleaning; and exterior Armor All.

 
From left to right Bo Ferenc, manager Paul Russ, Irene Ferenc, and The Solar Center CEO Ed Steins.

The Complete Interior service costs $89 and consists of an interior shampoo; leather cleaning and conditioning; dash, door panels, seats, and mat cleaning; interior fragrance; rubber and vinyl dressing; and a trunk vacuum. For $135 customers can combine the Express Service plus the Complete Interior, a $14 savings. The Supreme Service plus the Complete Interior costs $159, saving the customer $19.

Marketing efforts take on a different flare at West 10. Instead of running ads in the local paper and radio, the Ferencs prefer to use their marketing dollars on supporting the community.

“We target our advertising to-wards the non-profits,” Irene says. “From day one we have been committed to supporting high school events, the local little league, and other such organizations. Ultimately it is the community that supports us, so we do what we can to support it.”

In addition to promoting the wash through not-for-profit organizations, the Ferencs get the word out through signage on the wash property.

The one-acre lot has lots of frontage along busy Route 10, ensuring the wash doesn’t get lost in the background, and offering the perfect opportunity to promote the newly-installed solar panel system.

The panels are installed on the buildings pitched roof, allowing passing motorists to see the panels, and build interest in the wash and its equipment. Once inside the drive, customers are reminded of the wash’s commitment to going “green” by numerous signs promoting the solar panel system.

At the tunnel entrance a flat-screen television informs customers just how much power the solar panels are producing at that moment. Customers are also given an information sheet outlining how solar power works, further instilling the wash’s commitment to sustainability to its customers.

West 10’s car wash menu.

West 10 markets to existing customers simply, with discounted wash coupon five-packs and an 11th wash free program. The wash also offers gift certificates for the holidays.

The Ferencs have been committed to preserving the local environment since they opened their wash, and continue to find ways to further advance the cause.

“In general, car washes have always been seen as dirty water-wasting venues,” Irene says. “But the reality is that we are a clean industry.”

West 10 is definitely challenging the “dirty” tag, and can be viewed as nothing but a clean, “green” business.

If the Ferencs continue their commitment to the environment and customer satisfaction, there is no reason that West 10 won’t be servicing the people of Succasunna for another 20 “green” years.

AUTO LAUNDRY NEWS is published by EW Williams Publications Company
2125 Center Avenue, Suite 305, Fort Lee, NJ 07024-5898, USA Phone: 1-201- 592-7007 Fax: 1-201-592-7171