Profile in Success - October 2009

Two of a Kind
By Timothy Denman

Minute Car Wash's newest location at 650 Broadway.
Robert Brehaut is a busy man, operating two washes in Newburgh, NY.
The LED lit columns add some excitement to the lobby.

What do you get when two car wash veterans join forces? When the old pros are Anthony Pezzo and Robert Brehaut you get two sparkling facilities that capture the local market.

Pezzo and Brehaut have opened two Minute Car Washes in Newburgh, NY in the last year and have put all other operators in the area on notice: Newburgh is their town.

The first Minute Car Wash opened in August 2008 followed by the second in July 2009. The two facilities feature identical signage and design elements allowing for seamless marketing and branding.

The two washes are the only full-serve operations in Newburgh and are enjoying monopoly-like success in the early going.

“The only other washes in Newburgh are touchless and unattended self-serves,” Pezzo says. “Being a full-serve location gives us a huge competitive edge.”

The competitive edge is sharpened by the duo’s commitment to producing a clean, dry, shiny car each and every time. To make certain that each vehicle is up to Minute Car Wash’s standards, every car is inspected twice — once when it leaves the vacuum station at the tunnel entrance, and once more when towel drying is complete.

The newest location at 650 Broadway features a well-equipped tunnel sporting a 140-foot conveyor and multiple wash cycles to ensure each car exists the tunnel looking its best.

The MacNeil-equipped tunnel features all of usual bells and whistles of a modern full-serve, with each car passing through three separate wash cycles. “Each car gets washed three different times,” Pezzo says. “We have three cycles of soaps, foamers, and brushes. Three wash cycles is overkill, but it is all about putting on an incredible show.”

Customers can see the show from within the lobby — a perfect view of the mitter-less tunnel is provided by a tunnel-length window. Patrons can watch their vehicles travel through the tire and rim station, bug-off treatment, numerous brushes and arches, and the driers all while browsing through the standard array of impulse items.

Floor mats are washed and dried at the tunnel’s entrance.

The lobby features all of the standbys including steering wheel covers, detailing products, maintenance items, air fresheners, etc. Customers can also treat themselves to a cup of freshly brewed coffee or a cold drink. The lobby features all granite tile, a painted slat wall, rubberized urethane on the floor, and six LED illuminated columns.

Pezzo believes much of the washes’ success is due to the high-quality materials used in its construction. Pezzo, who has built 15 washes during his 16-year car wash career, compares his newest venture to his existing washes. “The people of Newburgh are not used to seeing these kind of facilities. I built a place in Brooklyn, NY and the granite and tile are commonplace there. But here in Newburgh it has been sort of a phenomenon and word of mouth has really driven up volume.

Three different wash packages are offered at Minute Car Wash. The Basic Wash costs $11 and features a complete vacuum, window washing, wheel cleaning, dashboard dusting, and a hand towel dry. The $14 Deluxe Wash upgrades the Basic Wash with floor mat cleaning, hot wax, undercarriage blast, and tire shine. The top-of-the-line Special Wash costs $19 and improves on the Deluxe Wash with tri-polish and RainX treatment.

Getting soaped up at the conveyor’s start.
Wax is applied by orbital polisher and removed by hand at Minute Car Wash.
The backs of all employee shirts sport the 48 Hour Clean Car Guarantee. If a customers car gets dirty within two days of washing, an exterior-only wash is free of charge.
Plenty of impulse items in the lobby.

The newest Minute Car Wash was an exterior-only wash since 1958, but when Pezzo and Brehaut acquired the location they decided to turn the place into a full-serve entity.

“I’ve owned exterior onlys,” Pezzo says. “But I prefer full-serve car washes because of the customer interaction and the possibility of upselling.”

Although the full-serve model is heavy on labor costs, Pezzo feels the benefits far outweigh the negatives as long as you keep labor costs under control. “I always look at labor as a percentage of sales. We might have a dozen guys here, but we kept labor at 28 percent of sales. We always keep labor in check with the formula.”

Although a full-serve wash, the facility converts to a $5 exterior-only operation from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. closing.

To ensure that the exterior-only customers are as satisfied as the full-serve clientele seven blowers were installed to guarantee a dry car without having to be hand dried.

Minute Car Wash offers a full menu of express and full-service detailing options. On the express side, four different packages are offered. For $30, customers receive a full-service car wash, tire dressing, and wax applied with an orbital buffer and removed by hand. For $10 more customers can add Teflon long-lasting protection to the package. Also available for $40, is the Carpet Express — featuring a full-service car wash and steam cleaning of carpets and floor mats. Rounding out the express options is the $60 package, featuring a full-service car wash, hand wax, steam cleaning of carpets and mats, and a tire dressing.

The full-service menu features three options: Exterior Detail, Interior Detail, and the Complete Detail. The $90 Exterior Detail includes a full-service car wash; washing and flushing of the wheel wells and doorjambs; white wall and wheel cleaning; cleaning and dressing of all chrome and bumpers; compound or polish; glaze; and a hand wax. The $70 interior detail features a full-service car wash; vacuuming; shampooing of upholstery, carpets, and mats; cleaning all windows; and cleaning and conditioning of vinyl or leather. The complete detail costs $135 and combines the exterior and interior services.

Since the two facilities are only one mile apart, Pezzo and Brehaut are able to market them as one entity. They have established an increasingly popular unlimited wash program that is honored at both locations. Three different levels are available that correspond to the Basic, Deluxe and Special washes. For $30, $40, or $50 a month respectively, customers can wash their cars as often as they like at either location. So far the program boasts 1,500 members and continues to grow.

In addition to word of mouth, the washes are advertised in the local newspaper and via e-mail blasts. A new advertising program is set to launch that will directly market to customers through text alerts on their cell phone.

Anthony Pezzo has built 15 washes in his 16-year car wash career.

“I am very excited about the possibility of the text messaging campaign,” Pezzo says. “I think it is going to be very effective. We can advertise specials of the day and get the word out quick. It is the cheapest form of advertising, and I will always have my name in the customer’s phone.”

In addition to their advertising campaigns Pezzo and Brehaut look to build goodwill within the community through charity work. The duo recently unveiled their Helping Hands program designed to help local charities.

“We give the charities car wash tickets,” Brehaut said. “They sell them on their own and we split the proceeds. It is a good way to build a relationship with the community while also giving something back. It is a win-win situation.”

Further servicing the community will be the two-bay oil change center and one-bay detail center the business partners plan to build this fall at 650 Broadway.

If the new additions to Minute Car Wash are anything like what the citizens of Newburgh have become accustomed to they are in for another treat.

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