Profile in Success - March 2010

Hand Wash Aims to be The First
By Timothy Denman

Jeff (left) and Jason (right) Haas founded Team Blue in May 2008.
Clean tires and wheels are a major priority.

There are quite a few regional car wash chains, and although some have tried, no company has made it on the national level.

Jeff Haas and his son Jason believe their newly established Team Blue Hand Car Wash has the capability to succeed as the industry’s first national franchise.

The father and son duo opened the first Team Blue under their ownership a year and a half ago and have been blown away by the wash’s popularity and are actively seeking franchisees.

Jeff is not new to the franchising business. He has owned and operated many successful businesses over the years, including a franchised restaurant chain. Jason came up the idea for a national car wash chain and the Team Blue concept. The duo opened the State College, PA operation as a proving ground for the planned franchise, to both establish the validity of the brand and work out any kinks in the design.

“My background is in many different businesses in many different industries,” Jeff Haas says “I have a strong background in the restaurant business, which is really the hospitality business. Team Blue has combined the hospitality business with the car wash business to give customers a unique and refreshing experience.”

The initial facility features three bays and services an average of 150 cars a day. Moving forward the Haases envision facilities with a minimum of four bays to handle demand.

Team Blue has found success unconventionally. The wash isn’t located on a main road or highway — besides Team Blue customers, the wash sees just 100 cars pass by on an average day. Despite what most wash owners would describe as a negative location Team Blue turned an operating profit after just four months.

The obvious question: How does the wash keep its bays full despite near non-existent street traffic?

“We have a very fresh, exciting customer experience.” Haas says. “Over 60 percent of our customers have been referred by other customers. That just doesn’t happen in the retail business.”

The Haases hope the Team Blue menu board will someday be seen all across the country.

The three-bay hand wash features a large window so customers can watch their cars get scrubbed clean.

To get the word out when the wash opened, the Haases employed a direct mail and television advertising campaign. Advertising and marketing were short lived however — after six months the promotion efforts were no longer needed as the wash’s loyal customer base began to spread the word.

Team Blue has established a firm grasp on their target market: customers that are unhappy with the results from a traditional full-serve tunnel operation.

“The business was founded on a basic principle,” Haas says. “We don’t believe there is any car wash machine out there that can wash a car as well as we can by hand.”

Haas believes he is capturing the driveway washers who turned their backs on the professional-washing industry long ago.

“People wash their cars in their own driveway because they are typically unsatisfied by going to a tunnel,” Haas says. “We use the same philosophy and system as if a customer were washing at home, except we are more efficient at it.”

When those converted home washers pull into the lot they park their car, proceed into the facility, order the service, leave the keys with customer service representative, and sit down in the waiting area.

The waiting area — also know as the relaxation center — features flat screen televisions, computers, complimentary beverages, Sony Playstation to entertain children, and most importantly a large window. The window allows customers to watch as their cars are washed, dried, and pampered by a team of three.

Upon completion the manager — or a staff member assigned the duty — inspects the car before it is presented to the customer, ensuring every car is up to Team Blue standards.

Although everything is done by hand at Team Blue, the wash can boast of a 12.5 minute inside and out full-service wash. A standard exterior wash at Team Blue costs $18.95 and features bug removal, tire scrubbing, tire shine, wheel cleaning and shining, cleaning of all door and trunk jambs, and a hand dry. A Rain-X window treatment is available for $4.95.

Typically three employees work on each vehicle.

Computer renderings of future Team Blue facilities feature four bays and ample parking.

Interior cleaning can be added for $5.95. The interior work includes a vacuum; trash removal; window cleaning; and a dash, door panel, and console wipe down.

In addition to hand washing, Team Blue also offers detailing by appointment. An exterior detail costs $249 and features a hand wash and dry; wheel wells cleaned and dressed; wheels cleaned and detailed; grille, headlights, tail lights, molding, and trim detailed; tires scrubbed and shined; and Polysteel, an environmental paint protection application.

An interior detail costs $159 and includes all door, trunk, and sunroof jambs cleaned; floor, seats, carpeted door panels, and trunk vacuumed; all windows and mirrors cleaned; carpets and carpet mats steam cleaned; leather cleaned and conditioned; and a thorough dashboard cleaning. Exterior and interior detailing packages can be combined for $279 — a $129 savings.

The wash has been so successful that the three-bay, 2,000-square-foot design has been shown to be inadequate for the demand. Future Team Blue sites will feature a minimum of four bays with 3,000 square feet and parking for 30-35 vehicles. Although the State College site has been successful despite minimal street traffic, ideal future locations will be built in high-traffic locations.

What makes the Haases confident that their franchise will become the first nationally recognized car wash brand? They believe the relatively low initial investment compared to full-service tunnels will allow Team Blue to expand into small-population markets. Startup costs are kept to a minimum due to the relative small equipment demands of a hand wash operation. The only high-priced equipment that Team Blue employs is a water reclaim system and an in-line water heater.

Although initial costs are low, labor costs are significant — Team Blue is a labor-intensive operation. The site employs 40 workers, with 12 onsite when the wash is busy — according to Haas the wash is always busy.

“Now that the business model has been proven we are starting to roll out the franchise portion of our business,” Haas says. “We had to give the business time to prove the operations and make sure that we were financially very successful. The business needed to meet our goals for franchise development — it has.

“We have been experiencing a lot of interest from potential franchisees. Most of the interest has come from our own customers.”

Will Team Blue’s national franchise plans become a reality? Only time will tell. What is certain however is that the company’s hand wash concept has been a rousing success in central Pennsylvania and its owners’ expertise and experience give Team Blue the leg up on becoming The First.

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