Profile in Success - June 2010

Running this Wash is a Breeze
By Timothy Denman

The new wind turbine sits prominently at the tunnel exit.
The entrance to the express exterior tunnel.

When it comes to buzzwords there are not many bigger than “Go-ing Green.” It seems that every business is trying to latch itself onto the green movement nowadays.

Kaady Car Wash is not a new player in the eco-craze — the chain has been committed to environmental consciousness since its inception. Instead of trying to attach itself to the green movement through the standard channels, the company has decided to lead the pack with the recent installation of a wind turbine in Vancouver, WA.

One of three washes in Vancouver — 16 total in the Pacific Northwest — the 2914 NE Andresen Road location’s turbine was erected in January and serves two important functions: an energy producer and a marketing tool.

The turbine is capable of producing 3,800 kilowatt hours (kW-h) of power per year. For perspective, the average American home uses 10,000 kW-h a year — the Vancouver wash uses about 300,000 kW-h. Factoring local wind patterns and the turbine’s elevation, Kaady’s unit is expected to generate 2,000-2,500 kW-h’s per year.

Obviously, the turbine’s output will only provide a small portion of the wash’s power needs, but it is a step in the right direction and just the start of organization’s plans.

“The turbine is the beginning,” Chuck Kaady says. “It is a place for us to start to develop from. At the same time if everybody does a little bit it will add up.”

The company purchased two turbines from DonQi Quandary Innovations of The Netherlands for an initial financial investment of $20,000 each. The first was installed at the Vancouver wash, and the company is still debating which one of their other washes would make a suitable home for the second.

An awning provides much appreciated shade at the cashier’s station.
The wash is located on busy Andresen Road next to McDonald’s.

In addition to the installation of the second turbine, Kaady Car Wash has several environmental initiatives both in place and in the pipeline. The chain has been employing VFDs for the past 20 years, participates in water recycl-ing, utilizes computers to control water management, and uses environmentally responsible chemicals in all of its locations. Future initiatives are not set in stone but this is certain: they are going to happen.

“With the turbines we may get into a different design or might go in a different direction altogether,” Kaady says. “We have thought about solar power as well, but at this point we don’t have enough surface area at our washes. The solar industry is continuing to evolve. As it does I’m sure the units will get smaller and better. It is something we are definitely interested in.”

The Kaady Car Wash concept is simple: provide customers with a clean car quick with a minimal environmental impact at each of its Oregon (12), Washington (3), and California (1) locations.

“The Northwest is very green,” Kaady says. “We are trying to address all those aspects. Not just to help protect the environment, which is the most important, but it is just good business. It is good business to make sure that we are not wasting power, water, or other natural resources.”

The chain’s 16 locations feature near identical pricing structures. The basic express exterior, entitled the Kaady Quality Wash, costs just $5 in Oregon and Washington and $6 in California. The Kaady Premium Package costs $10 throughout the chain and includes a basic wash, Clearcoat Shield, Liquid Polish, and an underbody rinse.

All locations feature self-serve vacuums ($1 for five minutes). Self-service mat washers are provided free of charge at limited locations. The Vancouver location is the only wash in the chain to feature self-service carpet shampoo for $3.

The competition in the metro Portland area is intense. There are 1.3 million people living in the area, and 130 conveyor car washes, or one conveyor of every 10,000 people. Such heavy competition makes advertising and marketing efforts paramount, and establishing the chain as a brand imperative.

The chain runs 30-second spots on local cable television promoting the benefits of professional car washing in general and Kaady specifically.

Self-serve vacuums cost $1 for five minutes.

The chain rotates its five current television spots — each one gets a six-month run. The ads run throughout the 24-hour day, focused primarily on morning and late afternoon/early evening. The commercials’ messages range from the environmental dangers of driveway washing to winter washing benefits to water conservation.

“Recently we have just been relying on the commercials,” Kaady says. “We haven’t done print and direct mail in quite a few years. Generally when we open a new store we will mail out a free car wash to the area, but we didn’t do that with the last location we opened. We have gotten away from discounting and coupons.”

The chain tracks the success of its commercials by keeping strict tabs on car counts and staying in constant contact with customers — if customers repeatedly mention the commercial to staff the spot is deemed a success.

Further solidifying the brand is Kaady’s discount, gift, and fleet and volume cards. All three cards can be purchased both online and in person and can be redeemed at any Kaady location.

The discount cards are sold in packs of five, with a minumum purchase of two cards. The Quality Wash card cost $23, a savings of $2 on five washes. The Premium Package card costs $42.50 for five washes, a $7.50 savings. Although the cards can be bought both online and onsite (for convenience), only those purchased over the Internet receive the discounted pricing.

The gift cards offer no discount, but come complete with cardholders featuring a space for a personal message from the sender.

The fleet and volume discount cards are available in quantities of 100 or more. The cards feature a 15 percent discount per wash on the Quality Wash and a 25 percent discount per wash on the Premium Package. Local charities are encouraged to purchase the cards and sell them at full retail value to aid in fundraising efforts. Further aiding with marketing efforts is the turbine itself.

The unit stands proudly at the tunnel exit, ensuring that everyone that visits the wash notices its presence. Unlike the television commercials and discounted wash cards, the highly visible turbine is spreading the wash’s green message 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.

Although Chuck Kaady has to keep an eye on 16 different locations, he faces the single biggest challenge that every operator faces: labor.

“The challenge is always people,” Kaady says. “Making sure you have the right people in place who are servicing the customers correctly is a concern for every car wash operator. When you have multiple locations it becomes a big challenge. When everybody isn’t under one roof it is that much tougher.”

Despite the challenges of operating in numerous locations over several states, Kaady Car Wash continues to explore expansion. “There have been a few opportunities lately that we turned down for one reason or another,” Kaady says. “But we are always looking to expand, and will do so when the right situation presents itself.”

Once the winds of fate present a suitable opportunity you can be sure that Kaady Car Wash will continue its long tradition of environmental stewardship and quality service wherever it expands.

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