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JUNE 2002

Car Wash Corral It's All Inside
By Jim and Elaine Norland

Car Wash Corral. A car leaves the self-service bay area. The touchless automatic's exit is on the left.

It may look something like a barn - and that's deliberate - but its "stalls" are filled not with livestock but with cars and trucks needing to shed mud, dust and road chemicals.

Car Wash Corral in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada, has been open only a few months, but it's already rounding up some 7,000 or more vehicles a month for washes that some customers say are the best in the province.

Housed in a structure that resembles a barn to blend with the Western motif of both Cochrane and nearby Calgary (10 or 15 minutes away on Highway 1-A), Car Wash Corral's eight self-serve bays and one touchless automatic are exceeding its owners' projections in volume and pleasing vehicle owners with clean vehicles.

Shafique and Karim Javer opened this new wash in mid-December (2001) on the site of their former business - a gas station, convenience store and four-bay truck wash - at 102 River Avenue. With margins tightening on gasoline and its 25-year age starting to show, the Javers decided to tear down the old business and build a new structure wholly devoted to car washing.

Curtains separate self-serve bays. Note the vacuum inside the bay. The exit door is on the left.

Doing their own contracting, the Javer brothers (Karim is trained as an engineer, and Shafique holds degrees in business and mathematics) built Car Wash Corral in about five and a half months. They attribute their entrepreneurial spirit to their father, Rahim, a skilled auto mechanic who was part of their business until he had a heart attack five years ago.

The 8,000-square-foot Car Wash Corral building, plus entrance and exit drives, maximizes use of the one-acre site. A Millennium in-bay automatic from Specialty Equipment Company is alongside the main building's eight self-serve bays, each bay separated by curtains from its neighbors.

The building's exterior is comprised of Octaform walls, hollow plastic forms that can be erected on-site and linked together to achieve the desired building configuration. During construction, rebar, insulation, and concrete are inserted into the cavities of the Octaform units, yielding a structure that is solid, attractive, and well able to withstand weather extremes.

The beige exterior walls (one of the colors available from Octaform) are topped with a red metal gabled roof to complete the barn-like look. Interior walls of the Octaform panels are white to add to the brightness of the car wash interior.

The Javer brothers filled the 10-inch wall thickness with four inches of insulation and six inches of concrete, a combination that works nicely in an area that sometimes sees temperatures as low as 30 to 35 degrees below zero.

Car Wash Corral has heated pads for cars that are entering or leaving the facility, heated floors inside, and controls for entrance and exit doors that assure only one is open at a time.

The combination of these elements means that even in the heart of winter, customers can comfortably wash their vehicles any time the wash is open, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, all year around.

Another feature attuned to Calgary's climate and road conditions: a complimentary undercarriage wash is given each vehicle entering Car Wash Corral before its driver chooses an empty stall for his vehicle's wash. The Javer brothers are also adding air lines so that excess water can be blown out of locks before the car or truck encounters freezing weather again.

The entire wash, inside and out, is brightly lit to enhance the clean look of the wash and to assure customer safety. The Javers operate some 10,000 watts of lighting, which also enables customers, many of them commuting between the Cochrane area and Calgary, to wash their vehicles as they return from work after daylight has ended.

Complimentary undercarriage wash at the entrance to the self-serve bays.

Adding to customer safety is the consistent presence of one or both of the Javer brothers. They have an office and mini-store near the front exit of the wash. While they don't stock the variety once offered in their convenience store, they have some car accessories such as wiping cloths and snacks and beverages. They were well-known in the area for their excellent coffee, so that tradition is kept in the new facility.

Right behind their office is another customer convenience, two K9 Self-Serve Pet Washes, where pet owners can wash their dogs or any other "reasonably sized pet," as supplier P.D. McLaren
Limited suggests. Those pet owners can park just outside the wash while washing their pet.

"The doggie washes have brought a lot of interest, and now with the weather getting better, that business is picking up quite a bit," Shafique Javer reports. The pet washes have a ramp so that the pet can easily come up to a convenient washing height for its owner. The units, which each require just 100 square feet of space, offer a choice of shampoos, rinses and other grooming needs.

The eight self-serve wash bays inside the main barn-like structure are arranged in a herringbone pattern pointed in toward a central exit path. Vehicles enter through one automatic door and, after that free undercarriage wash, choose an unoccupied bay for washing. If all bays are occupied, the automatic entrance door tells customers and won't operate until someone leaves.

Customers can insert coins in the push-button GinSan controllers and immediately see how many minutes of operation they have left. The clock keeps track of their remaining time so they don't get an unexpected cutoff. The acceptors at each bay also read ExpressKEY cards (for commercial vehicle owners as well as some individual account holders).

The self-serve unit is the BayMaster 2000, also from P.D. McLaren Limited. One unusual feature of the self-serve coin acceptors is the Vac-It-Up, a system that automatically senses a coin drop and briefly turns on a vacuum line that sweeps coins into a central vault. That eliminates the task of emptying individual coin boxes and concern about coin box vandalism, McLaren representative Rob Forbes notes.

Forbes and Al Derksen, also with P.D. McLaren, helped the Javer brothers in studying the feasibility and then the design and equipment for Car Wash Corral, but Shafique and Karim did their own research and studied other equipment options at Car Care World Expo in Las Vegas last year.

As members of the Canadian Car Wash Association for the past year, the brothers also keep up with industry news and developments from that source. They stay attuned to local and area trends. For example, they use all fresh water now in their wash. As public support for water recycling and reclamation grows, they are studying options in that area, anticipating need for such equipment within about two years.

A clean dog in a clean car - here's where you get it.

The Javers, capitalizing on their already established reputation in Cochrane, ran teaser ads for their new business for about a month before opening, first with just their logo and "coming soon," and then some descriptions of features. The week before opening, they ran a full spread in the local paper. The paper sent a reporter to do a story on the new enterprise.

Thanks also to a fortunate break in the weather, opening day was very busy. A warm day came at the end of a cold and snowy week, so drivers were ready to wash their cars and trucks, and they drove away pleased with the results.

Such swings of temperature are frequent in Cochrane, thanks in part to the warm Chinooks that blow down on the area to interrupt cold spells. That creates slushy conditions, and after dealing with the salt and gravel used to de-ice some roads, drivers need to wash their cars frequently.

Pickups and duallies (vehicles with dual rear wheels) are popular in the area. Karim estimates that
40 percent of Corral Car Wash customers drive such vehicles, 60 percent conventional passenger cars.

Cochrane, a city of about 11,000 population, also draws business from a market area of about another 10,000 people, Shafique says. The city has just one other self-serve wash, a six-bay operation, and one brush-equipped rollover automatic, so a ready market existed for the Millennium touchless automatic.

Everything to meet Fido's needs.

In fact, that Millennium is doing "two to three times what we expected," Shafique Javer reports. "The machine does a good job, including on the trucks and duallies we have around here," he notes. The automatic unit is washing about 3,000 cars a month. Karim Javer estimates the self-serve bays are handling between 3,600 and 4,000 cars monthly, which is also more than they had projected. Given the popularity of the automatic wash, the Javer brothers say they might have added a second unit like that and, assuming the same site limitations, sacrificed some self-serve bays.

"We would, down the road, like to build another car wash, probably in Calgary, but we'd have to consider our location carefully because of the many gas stations with rollover washes that offer a discount on wash services," Shafique observes. He believes, however, that by concentrating on car washing as a separate enterprise he and Karim can assure a higher quality wash and a better-maintained wash site.

The strong reception and growing volume for Car Wash Corral seems proof they can deliver those advantages to drivers no matter where they establish their next enterprise.

Jim and Elaine Norland are regular contributors to Auto Laundry News.


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