• Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

The Next Big Franchise – Why Car Washes Are Popping Up Statewide

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Nov 5, 2022


It hasn’t exactly gone unnoticed that car washes seem to be popping up everywhere.

In Ottawa County and Emmet County, for example, a slew of car wash developments in 2021-22 have reached almost similar proportions. Resident-filled Facebook pages have similar comments on posts about development, housing, and new and closed businesses: “When’s the next car wash?” “It would be better as a car wash.” “What we really need there is a car wash.”

So what’s the problem ?

Mandi Brower, president of Quality Car Wash – based in Holland – said that during the COVID-19 shutdowns, car washes were often not considered essential – except for those used to clean passenger vehicles. emergency.

This led to the permanent closure of many washes, most of which were independently owned, according to a 2021 article by the United States Census Bureau. Now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted and businesses can operate normally, demand for car washes has picked up, Brower said. And the ongoing developments mainly concern the franchise.

“(It’s) similar to the hospitality industry or the fast food industry 20 to 30 years ago,” Brower said. “Where there are a lot of family hotels and a lot of small bed and breakfasts…and the big chains are starting to come in and you’ve got everybody buying the family hotels, we’re starting to see that in the industry.

Quality Car Wash has eight locations in southern Michigan and continues to open more, with a new location on North Park Drive and another soon on River Avenue in Holland. The company is also focused on growing its national franchise, Tommy’s Express, which has 120 locations.

The Lighthouse Auto Wash along US-31 in Charlevoix is ​​nearing completion.  It will be one of four car washes in a town of less than 3,000 year-round residents.

It’s a matter of convenience, Brower said.

“Essentially, we made it more accessible to customers so it was easier for them to get around on their way to work or on their way home,” she said. “And so, with more convenience, the demand has increased.”

Brower said the process of opening a new site takes about a year. As a high traffic business, car washes must be located on commercial zoned property and will generally be located in areas with other businesses.

“If you go to a township and say you want to build a car wash here, but their future master plan is to have all the housing, you probably can’t do it,” she said. . “But usually a good location for a car wash isn’t in the middle of a residential master plan. You’re usually near new restaurants or shopping, big grocery stores, things like that.”

In Emmet County, there was a heated discussion about a car wash project at 1285 US-31 – the former La Seniorita in Bear Creek Township. Jartar Real Estate Development LLC’s proposal was for a car wash with vacuums and across the street an automotive detailing center with more vacuums and a paved area for future development.

The proposal was discussed at several county meetings, with reactions in person and online.

Emmet County Helping Hands members respond to a September post asking about the former La Senorita restaurant site.

On Michigan’s south side in Sturgis, a Whitewater Express is being built where the Fiesta Mexicana once stood, and the Sturgis Car Wash rides up to the old Johnston’s Skate-O-Rama.

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In Ionia, the former Southside restaurant at 2880 S. State Road is being demolished for a WhiteWater Express car wash. In Charlevoix, Lighthouse Auto Wash along US-31 is nearing the end of construction. It will be one of four car washes in a town with a year-round population of less than 3,000 people.

Holland has seen plans for car washes at the sites of former fast food restaurants including Pizza Hut and Burger King. But that hasn’t stopped residents from wondering: what next?

— Contact reporter Tess Ware at [email protected]

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