Profile in Success- October 2001
 
A Taste of Hollywood in Brooklyn
By Bill Paris

 



    Nestled 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 different story.
    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 (or tunnel?).
    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.
    For 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!

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