Locally-owned car washes keeping pace with big-time operations

The line of automobile owners seeking service at Brad’s Detailing Car Wash in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot stays steady.
Photo by Jaylen Rodriques

By Jaylen Rodriques
Outlook writer

Automobile owners in Tallahassee have more than 20 car wash locations to choose from.

That doesn’t include the ones that are set up in some driveways around the city. Many of the ones that make the list as mobile car wash operations aren’t even on a Google search list either.

All told, the local car wash business is booming – from the lot of a shopping center to the corporate established ones. Just as fast as a corporate-owned location opens, the local owners seemingly are keeping pace.

Locally-owned car washes aren’t new but the business is among those that the pandemic has made popular. In part, car washes owned by locals account for a portion of the types of work that individuals have turned to during the last year instead of returning to their minimum-wage jobs.

Amidst that boom, however, is concern that the individual-owned car washes have to make their businesses focused on providing personal service more than ever. It’s the one sure way that they can contend with the big boys, even as they seem to keep building in the city.

While the big brand car washes offer computer operated options, those that are locally-owned are more hands-on. Every wash might not include the same services, but automobile owners could see first-hand what’s being done.

That is a choice that Shane Townson finds appealing and it keeps him going back to his favorite spot at South Monroe Car Wash at 2612 South Monroe Street.

“I definitely like hands-on quality versus going through a machine,” Townson said.

Rodrick Allen, owner of 850 Diamond Detailing, has taken his car wash business up a notch by offering a little more than the big companies. His add-ons include oil change, window tints and interior services. During the pandemic, Allen added interior cleaning and sanitizing.

Further, if the option of providing custom Car Covers for the newly-washed cars is considered, it could have the potential to drive more customers into the shop. Thanks to such little add-ons and additional services, local car wash stations are starting to get the seal of customer satisfaction from both regulars and new customers.

Moreover, a few car wash and repair companies may even label and tag various internal parts in a car while doing regular maintenance to help identify the new parts and provide necessary details, including extreme temperatures, corrosive acids, brake fluid, and gasoline levels. These automotive labels can be very beneficial for customers to determine specifications and accordingly look for further car services.

Allen, whose business is located at 1471 Northwest Capital Circle, does all that without skimping on what his shop offers in a car wash.

“It’s all in what you put into your craft,” Allen said. “What you put in is what you get out.”

However, some drivers prefer the convenience of staying in their automobile and passing through an automated washer. Still others are attracted to bundle packages that may include pre-paid memberships that the corporate car wash businesses offer.

Companies like Take 5 Oil Change and Car Wash have added a car wash as another catch. Usually it’s a dollars and cents decision, said Austin Tausseaux.

“People come in for an oil change (and) we’ll tell them it’s $5 for a basic car wash,” said Tausseaux, manager of the oil change and car washing service at Take 5 Oil Change and Car Wash, which is located at 1702 West Tharpe Street. “We give deals on the car wash tokens.”

Tokens are valued at $5 each.

Whistle Express Car Wash seemingly has the biggest chunk of the market among the national-brand car wash companies, with four locations around Tallahassee. They stretch from the north side of town, along Apalachee Parkway, North Monroe and West Tennessee streets.

The emergence of corporate-financed car washes doesn’t appear to be deterring the local start-ups. At least not Brad Grant, owner of Brad’s Detail & Car Wash at 2529 South Adams Street.

Grant insists that unlike the corporate car washes, his business is driven by the opportunity it gives him to help others. His staff is made up primarily of individuals in his community who need financial help, he said.

“I always said that if I ever get the chance to ever make it, I want to give back to my community,” Grant said. “I started Brad Detail and Car Wash (as) something I was trying to do to touch people who couldn’t get a job.”

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