Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
On September 6, 2013, automotive aftermarket industry leader and shop owner, Pat Wirth, rolled down the doors of her quick lube for the last time. Before handing over the keys to the new owner, she left her customers with these words, “Parting is such sweet sorrow! It has been an honor and privilege to serve you for the past 16-plus years. Thank you for the trust and confidence you placed in us and for giving us a platform to give back to the community that we love!”
People regularly associate the automotive oil change business with “man’s work.” Wirth however, didn’t let that assumption fence her in. Instead, she saw an opportunity to empower women, provide leadership and do something that mattered. Over the years, she has leveraged being an industry minority with her business savvy. In the process, she created a business model that was equally unique as her vision. She went on to become president and CEO of her own quick lube and carwash and was the second female to serve as president of the Board of Directors of the Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA).
Wirth said that the first thing colleagues always ask is, “how did you get into the fast lube industry?” Using her quick wit and humor, Wirth said she usually replies by saying, “That I have dreamed of changing oil and washing cars since I was a kid, or I tell them the truth — circumstance.” In the mid 1980s Wirth and her husband had the chance to get into the oil and lube industry as investors in a Jiffy Lube franchise, and never looked back.
After selling the Jiffy Lube franchisee, she served as general manager for another Jiffy Lube multi-store franchise. In 1997 she became a Texaco Xpress Lube licensee, and in 2000 opened an Exxon Superflo-branded shop, her initiation into being an independent operator. Wirth desired a quick lube that was socially, environmentally and fiscally responsible. When the opportunity arose to cancer her license as a Texaco Xpress Lube, she did so and changed the name to Potomac Falls Express Lube and Car Wash and never looked back.
The shop adopted a sustainability plan that focused on people, planet and profit. The company’s mission statement read, “Potomac Falls Express Lube and Car Wash’s mission is to provide the Loudoun County community with professional, convenient automotive preventative maintenance, detailing and carwash services in keeping with our sustainability plan that focuses on economic success for the business and the community; social responsibility to employees, customers and the community; and environmental responsibility that respects life and natural resources.” The mission statement goes on to state its commitment to technical and customer service.
It didn’t take long for industry leaders to recognize the little shop in Northern Virginia. People talked about it being progressive in addition to being successful. Wirth’s shop stood apart from the rest. It offered outstanding and educated technicians, eco-friendly services and acknowledged its responsibility to the community.