Small-scale operators are the heart and soul of the car wash industry. While a growing list of mega chains continue to pop up across the industry, the small independent operator is still the prevalent model.
Dutch Car Wash sits on an acre of land.
Plenty of free vacuum spaces fill out the express experience.
Behind the scenes of the high-tech tunnel.
There is always someone onsite to guide customers onto the flat-belt conveyor.
The well-equipped tunnel entrance.
Car wash customers can use the mat cleaners free of charge.
Three pay lanes ensure minimum wait times.
But high development costs and increasingly complex operations have created a barrier of entry that is keeping potential mom-and-pop operators out of the business. To combat this trend many car wash newcomers are embracing turnkey wash solutions that leverage industry veteran knowhow while still allowing the car wash newbie to put their own stamp on the business.
Car wash rookies Willy and Christina Beumer have always wanted to own their own business, and fulfilling that dream has been a lifelong pursuit.
“Having my own business has always been the goal,” says Willy Beumer. “I never wanted to work for a big corporation. But I ended up doing exactly that, working in the cruise industry for nearly 25 years. But about six years ago we decided it was time to do our own thing. We spent years carefully scouting out a lot of different business options from senior care, to a bagel shop, to a trailer dealership, before finally landing on car washing.”
After years of searching, the perfect opportunity presented itself around two years ago when the couple encountered the Tommy’s Express Franchise Model. The attractive turnkey solution would allow the budding entrepreneurs to hit the ground running and avoid all of the development missteps that often plague car wash newcomers.
“We came across car washing and the Tommy’s concept and instantly knew this was it,” Beumer says. “We were drawn to the visuals of the wash. It kind of broke the mold of our preconceived notion of what car washes typically look like. It was the right concept at the right time, and all we had to do was find the right location for it.”
The right place for the Beumers’ wash ended up being Aurora, CO. They secured an acre lot in the Denver suburb and with the help of the team at Tommy’s built an all-out express wash that has all of the bells and whistles to help set it apart from the competition and instantly form a lasting connection with the motoring public. They branded their site Dutch Car Wash and after a lifetime of dreaming were officially business owners in March of this year.
The Tommy’s building came pre-designed and engineered with the latest Tommy’s equipment and cutting-edge design, allowing the owners to focus their attention on operations instead of spending months or even years in the design stage. The team at Tommy’s has perfected the solution and the Beumers are reaping the rewards with a site that is designed for optimum efficiency and well as aesthetic appeal.
“The solution is totally turnkey,” Beumer says. “That was critical for us not knowing anything about the systems and equipment. We didn’t have to start from scratch. The Tommy’s model is tried and true, all we had to do was pick a place to build it.”
The inaugural Dutch Car Wash site features a 110-foot-long tunnel with full-length bay windows, a curved transparent roof for natural lighting, round stainless-steel equipment arches, and 17 free self-service dual hose vacuums. In addition, the wash features a dual-belt conveyor system for easy loading, and license plate recognition technology to supercharge its growing unlimited wash club membership.
Dutch Car Wash has been open for a little more than half a year, but has already built a 2,800-member strong unlimited wash club.
Membership in the club starts at just $19.99 for the basic exterior wash, and tops out at $34.99 for the top-of-the-line “Wax” wash, featuring hot wax, triple foam, clear-coat protection, tire shine, high-pressure rinse, and an underbody blast.
With nearly 3,000 members and growing, the program gives the Beumers a source of reliable, steady income, while providing their customers with a valuable and results driven car wash experience. The secret sauce to the Beumers’ successful wash club is their license plate reader technology, which allows members to quickly enter the tunnel through a reserved pay lane, cutting down on wait time and adding a level of cool to the concept.
“The license plate reader technology really sets us apart,” Beumer says. “Customers absolutely love it and are amazed by the ease of use. We didn’t want to open up without having modern technology in place.”
The license plate reader is positioned in one of Dutch Car Wash’s three pay lanes, reserved for unlimited wash club members. The second lane features an automated cashier. While the third is home to a flesh-and-blood cashier, positioned to not only collect payment, but help customers navigate the wash’s four wash packages. In addition to the cashier, the wash typically has at least one more employee onsite to help guide customers onto the conveyor and keep the site clean and tidy.
Being able to run a lean staff was important to the Beumers and a key factor in the entrepreneurs’ selection of the express model for their first foray into car washing.
“Labor costs are excruciating high here in Colorado,” Beumer says. “McDonald’s is advertising $13.50 an hour to start. We wanted to make sure we kept our labor expense somewhat in check. The only way to really do that is with express.”
Customers are drawn to Dutch because of its smooth operational model and inviting aesthetics, as well as a commitment to the population it serves that has established the wash as a key member of its community. To help grow strong and powerful roots in the community, the wash has worked with a number of local non-profits on fundraising campaigns to give back to the community.
While the Beumers are new to the car wash market, the early success of their first location has inspired them to expand their operations. The couple is already under contract for a second Tommy’s site to be built in Parker, CO, around 10 miles away from their first location. In addition, the couple is actively searching for the site of a third Dutch Car Wash.
“We get frequent questions by customers multiple times a day whether we have more locations or if we are looking to expand,” Beumer says. “There is definitely a loyal following, and we are definitely going to grow the brand.”