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That’s entertainment! Operators win by enhancing the wash experience

Car wash is a highly competitive field. Operators battle on price, programs, and overall customer experience. Sites that succeed in this market have to go beyond the basics of clean tires and a spot-free finish to win and retain customer attention. To really keep customers coming back, you have to make the most of the overall experience. Where does your site stand as a source of ‘Wow!’?

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“Upping the experience is holistic, from the minute the consumer enters the site to the minute he/she leaves, everything in between forms part of creating the experience,” says Sylvain Blouin, originator of Alberta’s Rock-N-Wash and the operator of a new car wash site going up in Sherwood Park.

Blouin remarks that when he developed the Edmonton Rock-N-Washlocation, he had as many as 50 competitors in the area. To win over customers, he stepped up the entertainment level with a dedicated on-site radio station playing ’50s and ’60s classic hits, displays with coloured foams, and twinkling lights and themed secondary services such as a ’50s-style soda counter.

“Be creative, be different, you and only you know the location/market conditions of your wash facility. Have fun with it and make it fun for the consumers,” he says, adding that at the minimum the site offered music playing in the background, tri-colour foam brush and foam wax as well as pleasant scents in wash chemicals, and friendly interactive staff.

“Our slogan is ‘Revolutionizing the Car Wash Experience®’ so, creating a unique, fun experience truly begins during the design stage. We’ve planned this new facility to offer 12 different complementary services. Our Groovy Rock-N-Wash® fans will be able to enjoy any of our services and use one convenient loyalty payment method for everything and actually earn rewards,” he says. Blouin’s Groovy Rock-N-Wash will also be hosting weekly Cruise Nights. “Given our theme, there’s obviously going to be Rock’n Roll music playing inside and outside of our facility.”

According to Blouin, the new site will offer tri-colour foam, laser light show and lava soap/wax in the automatic. “Upstairs we will have a retro waiting lounge where consumers can relax while we detail their vehicles or celebrate birthday parties. The lounge is also where our Groovy Car Clubs meet for their monthly meetings. We’ll also maintain our online presence on several social media platforms and continue to interact and build relationships.”

Innovation drives market

Screen Shot 2019-09-12 at 3.39.24 PMManufacturers have been pushing the entertainment envelope for years with innovative lighting and chemical products. A leader is TSS, a company that has recently partnered with US-based National Carwash Solutions, a company with brands such as MacNeil and Ryco. TSS has announced Blaze FX, an in-wash lighting and arch display system that generates excitement with a holistic approach to engage the senses.

“When your wash site offers something amazing, people put this on social media and this drives business and loyalty within the younger demographic,” says TSS vice-president Bobby Jones. “There is so much disruption in the market, operators need an edge to stay in the game.”


Mikiz Pitt Stop dazzles the local market

A good example of a small operator that has stepped up their wash program is Mikiz Pittstop in Lunenburg, NS. Operators Alex and Mike Pittmanhave utilized their PDQ Laser 360 and tri-coloured foam applications to create a twilight laser wash entertainment feature. They report that this utilization of their wash equipment has created an entertainment draw that has families showing up for an evening drive through the facility before grabbing a quick dinner at the site’s small takeout café.

“I’m a fan of ’60s and ’70s culture, especially the cars, and this fits right in,” says Alex Pittmann. “People can now drop in during the evening for our Twilight Laser Wash, grab a quick bite and maybe wash the dog all at the same time. It’s a package where all the pieces fit together in a community where this is something new. It’s a small market and we took a bit if risk with the investment, but it’s paying off with customer support.

To a large extent the entertainment factor is the result of the creativity of operators and how they maximize entertainment opportunities using their equipment resources.  Here, Sylvain Blouin concludes, “Focus on the overall experience, and customers will come back over and over and over.”


U.S. example points to power in partnerships. Will we see this level of team play in Canada?

In the US, Northfield Park, Ohio, operator RockStop Gas & Wash is offering the ‘Vegas’ experience to its gas and fuel customers. The site, located about 30 kilometres between Akron and Cleveland, has partnered with the Hard Rock brand and offers a casino (Rocksino) and entertainment complex adjacent to its car wash, forecourt and c-store. The forecourt features Hard Rock-style lighting effects and LED TVs, which broadcast music videos and commercials. RockStop also delivers entertainment with a car wash with soundtracks for guests to enjoy and a full retail store including limited edition Hard Rock merchandise. RockStop also utilizes coloured foams, fruity scents and hard-driving tunes to keep customers thinking about the total experience available at the location, which is Ohio’s number one gaming destination.

This article originally appeared in the March/April issue of Octane. 


Mikiz Pitt Stop: Small market, big service

Lunenburg family takes the local car wash market to a new level

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Operator Alex Pittman          Photo: Peter Zwicker

In October 2017 Lunenburg, Nova Scotia got an upgrade when Mikiz Pitt Stop opened  to deliver a multi-service site with self-service wash bay, tunnel wash, doggy wash, and detailing centre. This year they added a convenient takeaway restaurant to the mix making this location a rare find in the historic community of 2,250 people on the province’s south shore.

Mikiz is operated by Alex Pittman and father Mike alongside mother Izilda and wife Jamie-Lee. The Pittmans are Lunenburg natives who knew a great idea when it came along. Alex had been operating a detailing centre for the past decade and recognized the opportunities available to those with the right location and equipment. So, a couple of years ago he and the family took the plunge and created a plan for a multi-service site where each part supports the next.

A destination wash site

 “A couple can come in and while one washes the car in the tunnel the other can take the dog over to the dog wash for a quick bath, and then they can both stop for a quick bite at the restaurant,” says Alex. “We have become a destination where people can obtain several types of service in a convenient setting and then go about the rest of their day. We save time and take the hassle out of keeping up appearances by helping to keep vehicles – and dogs – looking great.”

 Screen Shot 2019-06-25 at 11.47.58 AMAccording to Alex, they are fortunate to be located on a site that is close to both key tourist areas as well as prime local attractions. “We are just 500 ft. from old Lunenburg and very close to the hockey arena, curling club and school, so our visibility is greatly maximized. Everybody knows who we are and where to find us,” he says.

 Mikiz turned to Maritime Car Wash in Elmsdale, NS for installation of water systems, wand-wash and PDQ’s Laser 360 in the tunnel. “I did a lot of research before committing to any equipment type. We like the smooth operation and the ample pressure offered by the Laser 360 and it gives a great show as well,” says Alex, mentioning Mikiz’s Twilight Laser Wash that has become a popular after-dinner attraction in the community.

Says Gord Ryan, president of Maritime Car Wash Sales and Service, Alex went for a lot of upgrades to the basic package. “The folks at Mikiz Pittstop went out of their way to create something great for the community,” he notes, adding that Alex chose Extreme Shine, Over Glow, Gatling Guns for the wheel, tire and rocker-panel areas, Tri-Colour Foam Wax, Rain X and Undercoating. Mikiz also uses state-of-the-art Zep chemicals in the wand wash, detail site as well as the tunnel, making Mikiz the only operation in Atlantic Canada to do so.

 Alex mentions that as good as the Laser 360 is, it still requires fine tuning and maintenance like all other wash systems. “You have to stay on top of equipment and put a regular maintenance program into play to get the most out of any system you install,” he says. He has a lot of experience with machinery such as vintage cars, but an illness saw him wake up one morning several years ago to discover complete permanent blindness, a fact that has only slowed him marginally. “I’m fortunate to have great staff who know their stuff,” he says, pointing to Logan, Heather and Jackie, who all work in the operation and keep things running smoothly. “I don’t tend to take just one person’s advice either. My experience tells me its best to listen to wide range of opinion and then wade through the clutter.”

Opportunity knocks

 The idea from the outset was to create a business that was easily understood by the public and utilized previous experience. “I’ve been involved with vintage cars for years and so the detailing business was a good first step,” he says, adding that he has been in this end of the trade for over a decade. “There was a need for more car care facilities in the community and we were ready to offer this service. We have a lot of older residents and there is some money in the town that is a centre of tourism. We could see there was a good opportunity.”

Today, Mikiz Pitt Stop is slammed with business for the tunnel and self-wash with the single bay detail centre handling about 1.5 cars a day with a premium service that can top $300 per car. He saw the Doggy Wash as a natural add-on to a business that is all about water and clean. Alex looked to BC-based Furever Clean for their K9000 dog wash system. “We have a lot of dogs here in Lunenburg and the people who own them have welcomed this service. It’s fast, easy on pets and keeps the facility clean with a second generation drainage system and three-part filtration system which ensures a hair-free and water-free floor. Mikiz Doggy Wash offers shampoo, flea treatment and conditioning as well as blow dry for just $10 for a 10-minute session.

The wand wash equipment came from Winnipeg-based Magikist through Maritime Sales and Service. According to Alex, the wand wash section offers about 15% of the site’s business. They installed Magikist’s Easy Pull wand and foam brush as well as vacuum and water flow system. The self-clean site uses warm filtered water for the best clean and then offers an Armor All vending centre to help optimize the final appearance. Here customers can pick up a drying chamois for $1 or Armor All Lemon Wipes for the interior ($2) or Armor All specialty wipes for the exterior trim ($2). 

 Marketing drives business

 Mikiz also drives business through a variety of marketing efforts. For example, customers might receive a free ice cream, a doggy wash or other products like a fee car wash in what Alex calls Pitt Stop Give-A-Ways, a program that gets people trying out the services. Mikiz offers loadable gift cards as well. “We also give free ‘merch’ to our detailing customers. These include things like hats with our logo. We are also involved in local car shows where we can heighten our profile with the vintage car crowd as well as the general public.” 

 When it comes to water use Alex suggests no amount of attention is equal to the importance of this key aspect of vehicle wash. “In the past, people on the coast were very loose on pollution standards. Water waste and effluent were just sent out to sea. We could see right off that we could do better,” he says. Alex and his team looked to Maritime for a specialty tank that takes all used water through a 12-step process. “We can reuse almost all of the water that goes through the system with only a small portion being sent off as grey water effluent. I could have gone with a less powerful system, but this was a personal choice and one I’m glad I made.”

Alex mentions that he is also very pleased with the new takeaway restaurant. “It’s small, but serves the need,” he says. The new facility is just 30-ft. by 30-ft. and can accommodate 10 people on the patio. Menu is classic fare with shakes and burgers, hot dogs and fries topping the list. “I’m a fan of ’60s and ’70s culture, especially the cars, and this fits right in. People can now drop in during the evening for our Twilight Laser Wash, grab a quick bite and maybe wash the dog all at the same time. It’s a package where all the pieces fit together in a community where this is something new. It’s a small market and we took a bit if risk with the investment, but it’s paying off with customer support. People appreciate the time saving and we appreciate their business.”