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A new car wash experience

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Photos by Brandon Gray

Since Manny Kang was a teenager, he’s taken great pride in caring for cars. Some of his fondest teenage memories come from the weekly washes he’d give his father’s Chevette.

“It was always in the back of my mind that if I ever had the opportunity, I’d set up a unique car wash, and that passion stems from the age of 14,” he says. It wasn’t until Kang was packaged out from Petro-Canada (as a result of the Suncor buyout) that he set this lifelong dream into motion.

Along with his father, Nash, who had recently taken early retirement, the two began making plans for Car Pride Auto Spa.

The process

Work for the Mississauga, Ont.-based auto spa started in February 2010 with a pencil and a piece of paper. “I began working on a design and some schematics, which slowly turned into drafts for the city,” he explains.

But the zoning and permit process wasn’t as simple as Kang had initially hoped. The car wash is located within a Mississauga plaza, so plans and zoning had to be considered for the entire building, not just the wash.

As a result, it took until November 2011 to receive the permit and the full go-ahead.

“In the meantime, I put together my plan, finalized my design, and finalized the equipment and its placement,” he says. He also travelled across Ontario visiting other washes and speaking to experienced operators who could offer their advice.

Finally, in March 2012, Car Pride Auto Spa opened its doors to the public.

In the details

Kang’s site offers car washes, express and fine detailing, tinting, 3M Chipguard, as well as Motorbike detailing services.

Many of his potential customers owned high-end cars and were looking for a place that could offer TLC, he says. This helped him determine his equipment and unique focus.

“One of the major differences with our wash from any other is that the materials are suede coated, so the car gets a pre-wash and an after-wash and the finish is superior. We use microfibre on the top, rust inhibitors on the bottom, and rim brushes on the side,” he explains. “We have a focus on the rims because that’s important to the demographics of the neighbourhood.”

Spread the word

Kang knew that his customer base used social media, so he was sure to use it to full advantage. He started a Facebook page, which now has more than 3,384 “likes,” and a Twitter account, with more than 600 followers. He’s on LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest, and he has an information-packed website.

He’s also using on-site QR codes.

“While people are waiting for their vehicle, it’s not uncommon to see many of them with their iPhones clicking away on the QR code, which takes you to our Facebook page. Our customer base likes to multi-task and do research on the go and the QR code is a catalyst for that,” he says.

Customer experience

“We’re more than just a car wash,” notes Kang, and that’s apparent even from the lobby.

When customers walk into the lounge, employees always make them feel welcome. The space is open, comfortable, and customers can enjoy complimentary Starbucks coffee and access to free Wi-Fi while they wait. “That focus on experience carries over as we finish up their car. After you put the car in front of the customer, you want them to say, ‘Wow, that’s my car!’”

Manny’s top tips for a new build or reno:

1. Plan, plan, plan. Don’t rush into the project. Take your time and develop your vision so that when it’s time to build, your plan is clear.

2. Turn to others for advice. Get in touch with people in the industry. They can help you determine whether or not your plans are realistic.

3. Do your due diligence. Visit other car washes in your area and research locations online. You’ll get a good idea of what your options are and how you can set your wash site apart.