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