Taste of Hollywood in Brooklyn
By Bill Paris
between the Church Street stations of the "Q" and "F"
subway lines in Brooklyn lies the very first car wash in New York
City - Hollywood Car Wash. Located at the intersection of Church and
Coney Island Avenue, traffic abounds in one of the most densely populated
areas of the city. It makes perfect sense that a car wash would fare
well here, right? One may say so now, but sixty years ago it was a
Bert Russell, the original owner, got the
idea for a car wash here back in 1940 after a trip to the West Coast.
He saw a car wash operation in
Hollywood, and decided to bring the idea (and the name, subsequently)
back to Brooklyn. Taking apart what was originally a barn for horses,
Bert built Holly wood with his own hands. People in the neighborhood
laughed and called him crazy. Bert knew he was crazy - like a fox!
Of course, there were no conveyors in today's
sense of the word back then. A hook was attached to your car's bumper
and connected to an electric motor by chain. This contraption would
pull the car through the tunnel. In those days, a car wash cost a
whopping $1.50 for a 12-minute wash, but the idea caught on. In fact,
it became an institution! Current customers have fathers, grandfathers,
and even great-grandfathers who have taken them to this hallowed hall
Speaking of the tunnel, it has an impressive
length - 153 feet of conveyor housed inside a 200-foot building! What
do they do with the remaining space, you may ask? Indoor wiping with
Microfiber towels after air-drying the car! While your vehicle is
travelling though the new Belanger-equipped tunnel, it is treated
to JOBE soap, triple polish wax, and sealer wax. For $8.95 you can
get The Works, which includes a wash, wax, and chassis spray-down,
as well as an internal vacuuming, window wash, and air freshener.
The regular wash is just $5.95. Since 1985 they have used recycling
equipment for the well water they have on the premises.
Shlomo Avital, co-manager of Hollywood Car Wash with Manny Oknin,
1985 was an important year as well - it's the year Bert Russell offered
him a partnership! Shlomo came to New York in 1983, and started working
in the car wash industry as an attendant in the Bronx. As he climbed
the ladder of success, he became a natural to fill the spot of partner
and resident "gung ho" supporter. He was quick to point
out that the readers of a local Brooklyn magazine voted Hollywood
the best car wash in Brooklyn, by a margin of three-to-one!
Besides the car wash, Hollywood offers a detail
shop, c-store, and cafeteria that features cappuccino, slush, pastries,
homemade sandwiches, candy, cake and TV! The
c-store features all types of auto accessories, including mats, air
fresheners, and other car-care products. The detail shop is full-service,
enabling the customer to receive everything from an engine cleaning
to reconditioning. Shampoo, compound and wax service is $79.95.
Despite the relatively small lot (200 feet long
by 60 feet wide), Hollywood Car Wash employs a crew of anywhere between
10 and 15 people. Due to the population density, finding labor isn't
difficult at all. "About 30 percent of our staff has stayed with
us over five years," estimates Avital. "Some have stayed
for 10, and a few for 15 years!" As to the question of cross-trained
wash/detailing crews, Avital asserts, "Some know both, but we
have a special crew for detailing."
The next time you are in the
New York City area, give Hollywood Car Wash a try. Its sense of history
and pride will impress any automobile owner!