Profile in Success - May 2010

Equipment-Loaded Express —
Serves Traffic-Loaded Market

By Jim and Elaine Norland

Mark Paulino (left) and Larry Spring (right) opened Sparkle Clean in December 2009.
Customers select from four menu choices at the automated pay stations.

Mark Paulino and Larry Spring are no slouches when it comes to offering an unbeatable combination in car washes. Their first partnership is on a busy Oakland Park, FL thoroughfare where they beckon 70,000 drivers daily to get their vehicles quickly and thoroughly cleaned for as little as $3.

Their Sparkle Clean wash at the corner of Oakland Park Boulevard and NW 17th Terrace opened early in December 2009 and is doing well despite a slow start due to Florida’s unusual winter weather this year. “When we have good weather, that place rocks,” says Spring.

The wash is easy to see and easy to access, thanks to its location along Oakland Park Blvd. and a signal-equipped intersection so drivers can turn onto NW 17th Terrace for easy entrance and exit. A 20-foot sign and a building side that proclaims “free vacuums” on Oakland Park Boulevard lure motorists. At night the peak of the building has lighted signage that identifies the wash. The location is just three-tenths of a mile from Interstate 95.

Some $85,000 in beautiful landscaping surrounds the wash. “It’s landscaped very well, and that helps make it a very nice car wash,” Paulino notes.

Almost all the wash water is reclaimed at Sparkle Clean, not because of regulations but because of the water savings it affords. “Water prices in a lot of places in Florida are high. My water bills are very cheap. We enjoy substantial savings, and the community likes it as a green measure,” Paulino observes.

Cars are dried using three different drying applications.
The conveyor is set to handle 120 cars per hour.
There is plenty of action in the 135-foot tunnel.

Incoming water is processed through an industrial size Kinetico water softener. A PurClean RO system supplies the final rain manifold. Reject water is captured and reused for various friction pieces of equipment throughout the tunnel. The wash also employs a Sonny’s reclaim system, using reclaim water for all of the high-pressure equipment.

Paulino is a 20-year veteran of the car washing business, and owns another Sparkle Clean wash that he opened two years ago in Boynton Beach, a few miles north of Oakland Park.

The Oakland Park unit boasts a 135-foot tunnel loaded with express line equipment geared to a chain speed of 120 cars per hour. A small waiting room enables customers who choose interior cleaning for their vehicles to sit comfortably and select beverage, snack, and greeting card offerings while their cars are finished.

The interior service, priced at $13 including the best express exterior package, is the most expensive package at Oakland Park’s Sparkle Clean location. Other options include the basic $3 express wash and upgrades at $7 and $10. The $7 choice includes one level of polish or on-line buffing using Neoglide top and rocker polishing units. The $10 wash offers what Paulino and Spring call a “buffmaster plus” treatment. The on-line buffing choices are well advertised to drivers as they enter the wash.

Vehicles are dried on line with a sequence of three different drying applications. That follows spot-free rinsing including directional rinsing that targets mirror housings.

The Oakland Park Sparkle Clean is larger than the wash in Boynton Beach in which Paulino is the principal owner. Boynton Beach also has fewer vacuum stations, 20 compared to 29. The partners chose a central vacuum system, compared to the individual vacs at Boynton Beach. Paulino explains that the central system is more expensive at the outset but much less trouble to operate and maintain.

Customers can pay for their washes by cash, credit card, or gift cards. The wash doesn’t sell quantity discount cards. “When you’re selling $3 express washes, that’s discount enough,” in Paulino’s opinion. Oakland Park’s Sparkle Clean wash also incorporates an automated pay station, which makes it far easier to track wash revenue. “It helps in bookkeeping and many other things,” he says.

The Oakland Park Sparkle Clean operates with a staff of two to five, depending on time of day and wash demand. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., six days a week, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. “We might go into a deeper second shift, perhaps staying open until 8 p.m.,” Paulino says. “Oakland Park Boulevard has a lot of traffic. We’re studying it carefully, and don’t want to make a mistake.”

The core staff for Oakland Park was trained at the Sparkle Clean wash in Boynton Beach. Employees are treated well at both establishments and receive good tips, Paulino reports. Drivers coming to the Oakland Park location are widely diversified in cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

The car wash occupies about half of the 2.3-acre site that Paulino and Spring acquired. They have plenty of traffic-building neighbors, being next to the main post office, Dunkin’ Donuts, Home Depot, a major bank, and a large Toyota dealership. “It’s an excellent place for a car wash,” Paulino says.

“We’ve really had some good car counts,” adds Spring. He spent a lot of time at Oakland Park at the outset and plans to spend more time there once he completes some other business in Texas.

Spring and Paulino were partners in a car dealership. “Mark was in the middle of getting Oakland Park put together and we just partnered up on the deal,” Spring says. This is his first involvement in the car wash business. “We’re real pleased with the way it’s working out,” and the partnership may move forward into other locations, he says.

Paulino began in the car wash business in Boston in 1990 after running and then selling a large trash business with a staff of 250 in the Boston area. Weather and other factors made his car washes less attractive than earlier, so he sold his interest and moved to Florida.

His Boston beginnings resulted in connections with car wash consultant Steve Gaudreau and with Sonny’s. “Steve did my original study on the Oakland Park property before I bought it.” Because both Paulino and Gaudreau lived

in Boston, “he told me to come to a seminar on sites. I was impressed with the express car wash concept that he described.” Further strengthening the Boston connection was Sonny’s beginnings in Boston.

The equipment package for Sparkle Clean Car Wash in Oakland Park was “very specific and enhanced tech,” says Jeff Fazio, national accounts manager for Sonny’s. All the equipment and controls were plumbed and wired before delivery to the site, saving contractor expense and time in getting the wash ready to operate, he says. It was basically a matter of one connection each for plumbing and wiring when the equipment was put in place. “We powder coated every piece of equipment white,” Fazio says, which adds to the aesthetic impression on customers.

Top brushes ensure no spots are missed.
Wheels and tires are not ignored at this express.

The Oakland Park Sparkle Clean was introduced to customers with free washes for the first few days in early December, and the wash was advertised in the community with 25,000 flyers. “I’m sure we’re going to do some more advertising, but I’m not sure what,” says Paulino “We’re feeling our way and we expected a little more traffic in our first few months, but we had a lot of bad weather. It’s never been this cold down here.

“I think we’re still doing exceptionally well for the time we’ve been open, considering our advertising so far as well as the weather. All we have to do is perform a good job on the car and be nice to people and build customer satisfaction and we’ll do well.” Competition comes chiefly from two full service washes within a three-mile radius.

Sparkle Clean has a rich supply of potential customers in addition to the passing traffic count of 70,000 cars daily. “Paulino and Spring have a tremendous number of rooftops to draw from,” Fazio observes. “The population is over 10,000 within a one-mile and over 50,000 or 60,000 within a two-mile radius.” The wash has clear visibility and easy access in and out, he adds, expressing confidence that the equipment package can well serve the volume he anticipates.

As Paulino has done at Boynton Beach, the Oakland Park Sparkle Clean will soon make its mark in supporting local bowling and Little League teams and sponsoring special benefits, but tailoring its promotion and community relations to the different clientele at the new location.

As more South Florida residents and visitors experience the fast, quality wash at Sparkle Clean, they’ll share the enthusiasm shown by early customers. “We’ve really had some good car counts. We have a great wash and people love it,” says Spring.

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

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