Lather, Rinse, Re-Imagine
In a world of $3, $5 and $10 carwashes, where each tries to offer a lower, more competitive price while providing a better wash, Debbie and Rick Bearden are going against the grain.
It would have been easy for the Beardens to add a run-of-the-mill carwash to their operation, but that wasn’t the vision.
After successfully opening two lube centers in 2009, a third in 2011 and building a fourth one from the ground up in 2012, a decision was made to add a carwash to the operation.
“When you’re starting a lube center, getting that car count up can just about kill you,” Debbie Bearden said. “We opened the carwash to help with our car counts. That, and lube centers and carwashes just go together.”
However, Debbie Bearden didn’t want a normal carwash.
“I met with an architect, and it doesn’t look like he wanted it to look. There was a lot of tweaking involved, but I knew what I wanted,” she said.
Situated behind their newest lube center in College Station, Texas, the Beardens’ unique carwash, American Lube Center’s Tower Point Hand Car Wash and Detail Center, wraps around the building in the form of a horseshoe and is both an automated and hand wash experience.
“We have stations where the different soaps come on at designated times, and there are employees situated between each station,” Debbie Bearden said. “If a car pulls up, there are two guys working on the car. They prep it, wipe it down and do the wheels. From there it goes into the soap. As soon as it goes into the soap, there are two guys washing it. After that, it’s manual until the car gets to the end.”
The setup isn’t the only characteristic unique to the Beardens’ operation. Most high-end carwashes have customers center their car on a track and shift into neutral. However, this carwash boasts a conveyor system that allows it to service everything from dualies to motorcycles and anything in between.
“The conveyor keeps us from ruining tires, there are no brushes, so we don’t have to worry about scratching vehicles, and there are very little maintenance issues,” Debbie Bearden said. “We are also the only ones in town where dualies run through the tunnel. Other places will offer you a hand wash, but if they get busy, they won’t do it. We started doing dualies, and people love it.”
Although they have the capability to do a normal, by-hand wash, American Lube Center’s Tower Point Hand Car Wash and Detail Center is more upper-end. They also have the ability to detail as many six cars at one time.
“We are becoming known as the best place to get a detail whether it’s large or small detail,” Debbie Bearden said. “It might just be an interior detail, exterior or bumper-to-bumper, but we are able to charge more because of that. That doesn’t mean we don’t have certain people come in for just a carwash. The difference is, for us to make $1,000 in a day, we might do 30 cars. A normal carwash is going to do 100. I was told that I’m going against the grain. Everyone else is opening $3 carwashes, and I opened one that’s more expensive.”
At $199 a pop for bumper-to-bumper service and ticket averages sitting at $50, the price may be higher, but the Beardens seem to be proving the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”