By Jim and Elaine Norland
| Landscaping adds aesthetic appeal and assistance directing traffic flow to the tunnel and in-bay entrances.
Given the traditions prevailing in New England, one might expect that a rehabbed car wash in Marshfield, MA would look much like many other community businesses — clad in clapboard siding and shingle roofs. City fathers would likely prefer it, but automobiles weren’t part of colonial times. Making his renewed Briteway Car Wash in Marshfield reflect the Golden Age of the Automobile seemed much more appropriate to Paul Vercollone.
Vercollone, vice president of Verc Enterprises and current president of the New England Carwash Association, didn’t want to blend in with the traditional look. Thanks to an opportune meeting with architectural illustrator Peter Whitman, whose hurried drawings brought Vercollone’s vision to life, the two convinced the Zoning Board of Appeals that an Art Deco styled car wash would be an appropriate addition to the community. Not only did the ZBA approve, but so did drivers in strong numbers.
Vercollone spent considerably more than an ordinary renovation would have demanded, but Briteway’s new look has an extraordinary appearance. Verc Enterprises spent $1.4 million on a complete redo including a new septic system, a cloth-equipped exterior tunnel wash, an in-bay automatic, and more vacuums along an expanded Briteway frontage on Route 139.
A grand re-opening in late July formally introduced the wash’s new look. Fundamental elements of the wash had opened six months earlier, when the new septic system and tunnel equipment became operational. The wash closed in early November 2006 for those essentials; actual downtime was held to less than two months while other changes continued into the spring.
The renovated wash makes a great impression on passing drivers as well as those who enter to enjoy state-of-the-art car washing. Thanks to expansion onto a former used car lot, additional street frontage lures motorists as they watch drivers of freshly washed cars drying and vacuuming their vehicles.
| Views of the wash tunnel before (top) and after (bottom) the renovation.
The new Hanna cloth washing equipment provided through Autowash Maintenance Corp. of Malden, MA replaces older Hanna gear, which was, like the conveyor itself, “tired” and due for replacement, Paul Vercollone noted.
The tunnel wash is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the year, except special holidays such as Christmas. Customers stay in their cars as the exterior is washed. They can choose wash packages ranging from a basic wash for $10 to the top $18 wash, including online options for triple foam, tire shine, and other extras. The wash doesn’t offer towel drying, but clean towels are provided for customers who want to dry their own vehicles in outdoor space on the two-acre site.
A two-person crew can easily operate the wash, usually a manager or assistant manager plus one helper. “We direct the customers onto the conveyor, and they stay in their vehicles. The helper preps cars coming into the tunnel, using prep guns and giving special attention to wheels for customers who choose that added service,” Paul Vercollone said. “The helper picks up around the site to keep it clean, and makes sure there are clean towels for customers who want them to dry their vehicles.
“Whoever is directing cars onto the conveyor sells the service package and collects the money. On busy days, especially during the busy winter months, that person has a handheld unit that is part of our DRB system. He can walk down the line four or five cars out and program the wash package into the system so we aren’t slowed down collecting money right at the entrance.” Customers can pay for their washes with cash or credit card.
A sizeable array of vacuums along the frontage adds to the clean-car impression that Briteway projects to passing motorists. The vacuums, which include multifunction options, are priced at $1.50 for four minutes. (At the Briteway in Plymouth, vacuum use is priced at $2 for four minutes because that site has bill acceptors, which may soon be added at Marshfield.)
Any time, day or night, drivers can use an in-bay PDQ LaserWash G5 to clean their vehicles. The in-bay automatic replaced two detail bays that the wash featured in the past. Some motorists prefer the in-bay automatic option, and others use it when they’re out late at night or heading into Boston at a very early hour, Vercollone noted.
The building exterior’s styling, rendered in cream, satin-finish metal, and blue with a touch of red trim, recalls classic car-grille styling in its roof peak. Stucco over cement board siding is the main exterior material, enhanced by decorative metal trim. Going for the Art Deco look cost “significantly more” than a more conventional exterior, Paul Vercollone said, “but the additional expense was well worth it.
“We also did a lot of landscaping here. The yard had been completely asphalted because there had been a car rental business here, which moved up the street. Now, to help direct vehicles and enhance the site, we have landscaped islands and a waterfall feature as well.”
Inside the tunnel, customers find the walls and ceiling entirely surfaced with white Royal Renew paneling and bright lighting so they can clearly see the cleaning in progress. The paneling and lighting was part of the work undertaken by general contractor Arlen Company of New Ipswich, NH.
The Renew paneling is flexible, durable, and non-yellowing. It resists ultraviolet light, mold, mildew, and chemical soiling, and will maintain its brightness for many years, noted Matt Traffie, president of Arlen. The polymer panels are 3/4-in. thick and fasten to existing wash tunnel surfaces with a series of joiners.
The renovation was more than just surface treatment. The new septic system and SoBrite water reclaim apparatus were important to Vercollone, who also lives in Marshfield. His concern for the environment goes deep.
The Marshfield wash is one of two tunnel washes owned by Verc Enterprises, now headed by founder Eugene Vercollone’s sons, Leo, CEO, and Paul. The tunnel washes are at Marshfield and Norwell, MA. At Norwell the tunnel wash is complemented by a detail shop and express car services. The Marshfield location is where Eugene Vercollone began in the business in 1974.
An in-bay automatic wash at the company’s
Plymouth, MA multifunction convenience store and gas station may be the forerunner of in-bay installations at others of the company’s 20 store sites. The Plymouth location has Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, KaBloom Flowers franchises, and a beer and wine shop.
The quality of in-bay automatic washes has improved vastly in recent years, Paul Vercollone said, and in certain company facilities where total site space is tight such a wash might replace the drive-through of Dunkin’ Donuts shops. The donut franchise is found at 16 store sites.
“We have groundwater discharge permits for our wash. Without a city sewer hookup, you need a permit to discharge and you have to treat the water before you dispose of it. We test our discharge monthly and our groundwater quarterly and report to the state. That’s part of owning a permit.
“Testing has educated me on what we put into the groundwater, and New England is very sensitive to a green environment. I look around in this town, and other towns around the South Shore, and see the charity car washes with soaps, oils, and greases from the cars washed into the groundwater.
“I think we can do it a better way and help them raise money. We’ve made our car wash facilities available to charitable groups. We work with a number of them and encourage them to run their events at our facilities on Sundays from noon to 4.” The charity gets $3 per car going through the wash during those hours, whether or not the car belongs to their friends and family, or just regular drivers who would be coming through the wash anyway.
“We don’t want the group members actually washing the cars, but they can stand out by the street with their signs advertising a charity car wash. It works for everyone, and the person who wanted a wash is now getting a good car wash versus the results on a parking lot where the kids often are just spraying hoses all over the place, wasting water.”
The Boys and Girls Club of Marshfield benefited from washes at the Briteway Car Wash grand opening this past summer. Nearly $500 was raised by the group, which Paul Vercollone and his wife have supported over the past six years. They were honored as “Citizens of the Year” for their work and contributions to the group at a gala black-tie dinner during the New England Carwash Association meeting last fall.
Making a special effort to improve not only the function but also the appearance of the family’s original car wash has been rewarding, Vercollone believes. “The community has really appreciated and taken notice of what we’ve done.” People take time to compliment him on the change when he’s out around town, he said, and his employees at the wash also get similar comments from people in and around Marshfield.
Concerns for the environment, community needs, and improvements in car washing all shine at Briteway Car Wash.
Jim and Elaine Norland are regular contributors to Auto Laundry News.