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New look and feel at First Street Pioneer Station car wash

Flexible wash option is a winner at this newly renovated Collingwood, Ont. car wash.
Pioneer owners Kumar
Sanjeev "Sonny" Kumar (photos by Gary Davidson)

Cars in Collingwood, Ontario, will be a little cleaner this year following extensive upgrades and renovations at the First Street Pioneer Station. The business, operated by Sanjeev "Sonny" Kumar, features a full-range eight position forecourt, 1,500 sq. ft. convenience store, Indian foods restaurant and Fusion [car] Wash. 

“I took over the site in June of 2021,” says Kumar, who had been involved in another fuel location in the community for over 20 years before it was sold last year. He reports that the First Street fuel and wash business he now operates launched initially in 2012 as a Pioneer station. “ When we took it on, we could see there needed to be some investment to make the site more attractive to customers in the area.” Changes included a refresh of the c-store and launch of an adjacent Indian foods restaurant as well as a new ISTOBAL FLEX5 wash system to replace the older touchless system.

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Interior of Pioneer car wash in Collingwood

Kumar’s new Fusion Wash opened on December 13, 2021, to rave reviews from customers. “The first week was amazing, and we have seen a steady and sustained growth in business as a result of the upgrade.” His Fusion Wash customers now have greater choice with a system that can offer both soft-touch friction and touchless service. 

“We retired the old equipment that had become tired over the years and cleaned up the facility,” he says, mentioning that they were able to keep existing below-grade separators and continue to recycle and reuse water for select parts of the system such as high-pressure pre-rinse. “The old system was strictly touchless. After shopping around, we decided on the FLEX5 Combo because of its capability. With a five-brush design, the FLEX5 delivers the clean our customers want, and it can easily accommodate other customers who look for a touchless option. Choice means no one is left out, and this is good for business.”

Kumar looked to PD McLaren for equipment and advice before making his decision. The FLEX5 Combo can be either a 3 or 5 brush unit (depending on operator need) and includes the same contouring rotating top and oscillating side high-pressure components used on the ISTOBAL FLEX5 Touch-Free configuration. The Combo’s high-pressure pumping unit provides 33-GPM@1100-PSI, and with multiple pumps on the pumping stand, the machine can turn on just one or multiple pumps at once to provide only the required amount of water. This functional aspect makes the system incredibly efficient in both water and electrical consumption.

The FLEX5 Combo unit can utilize five brushes in one pass, making the car wash 30% faster than using its optional three brush configuration, says John Sorensen, Regional Sales Manager with PD McLaren. Sorensen comments that Kumar was interested originally in a full tunnel express. “Sunny was looking to maximize his thru-put. We were able to analyze and predict his customer capture. With this data in hand, we were better able to offer solutions for his business. The FLEX5 Combo is a good mix between a small tunnel wash and a rollover. And, the system can handle his traffic surges which occur throughout the day.”

Kumar elected to go with a fully optimized system that allows for a multi-wax capability to give his customers the most choices possible. There is a dual pre-soak that uses both low and high PH formats. In addition, the system offers under-spray, high-pressure wheel, quarter panel blasters and five brushes. The Premier dryers are 60 horsepower units that use six motors to power a set of ‘Elephant Ear' blowers that focus on getting fluids off the top and sides of the vehicle. The off-board placement of the dryers means Kumar can have two vehicles in his wash bay at once.

The site turned to Baywatch Doors for new entry systems. Kumar selected a polycarbonate three window door for both entry and exit. He also elected to go with Baywatch’s top-of-the-line technology called IntelliWatch. “Our doors are controlled via the Internet. We can monitor them remotely and can make changes for the weather,” he says, noting that they currently have the doors set for -25ºC, at which point the doors stay closed to keep the wash bay warm. “Our system gives us a reading on both inside and outside temperatures. There is an alarm that lets us know if there is a problem like a stuck entry, damage or temperature alert.  

The installation came with a few challenges. “We upgraded the electrical from 200 amp to 400 amp. At first, we had thought we would run the power lines above ground, and we obtained permits for the work. But, the contractor suggested it would be better to go with underground cabling. This change meant a delay while we arranged for new permits. There were also challenges caused by supply chain issues,” he says, remarking that altogether the delays only amounted to a few weeks. 

Today, the site has a cohort of four persons, including Kumar. He comments that the new wash system has allowed them to increase service levels while maintaining the same number of staff before the renovation. On average, the system runs 10 to 15 cars per hour. The top-level Fusion Platinum package uses a combination of soft-touch friction and touchless elements and takes 6.5 minutes to complete, while other packages run between three and five minutes. Kumar reports they offer three packages that feature touchless, friction, and combinations. Express touchless is $6.99, Superior (friction) $8.99 and Ultimate is $10.99. Prices are $2 more without a fuel purchase. 

“Choice has proven to be a winner for our business. This flexible car wash system is like having two machines in one, and that capability has meant more share in a very competitive market,” concludes Kumar.  


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