Dreams Eco Xpress Car Wash opened its second location this past February in Calgary northeast. The new site is the second location for the growing chain, with the first already a successful enterprise in Okotoks, a bedroom community 18 kilometres south of Calgary. Next up is a third location in Calgary southeast, which is to open later this year.
Behind the success of the group is a strong water and effluent management program and a push to use biodegradable chemicals. “Our customers have noticed that you can be green and still have effective car cleaning,” says Tom Tallon, director of operations at Dreams Eco Xpress. He mentions that they have been able to offer the service and still keep pricing competitive, an important consideration in what has become a very tough market for car wash in the city.
“We use reclaimed and recycled water in 60% of the wash,” says Tallon. “At our Okotoks location, the system utilizes settling tanks and then a filtration system to reclaim water. Here in Calgary, we are using a newer and more advanced PurWater and PurClean system that runs at a higher volume to accomplish our water goals,” he says, mentioning that they had to jump through a few hoops to obtain water recycling permits from the City of Calgary before opening.
At Dreams' new Calgary site, they have been able to bring water use down to 30 to 40 gallons (135-180 litres) per vehicle. Dreams Eco Xpress Wash uses only freshwater, alongside chemical treatments like waxes and detergents, to achieve a spot-free rinse at the end of the ride. “We use reclaim on the high-pressure stainless steel ‘octopus’ arches at the front end to prep the vehicle,” he says, adding that the operation uses a cohort of six staffers to run the tunnel. “Having staff in the tunnel provides a more personal experience that is in keeping with our business model. We want our returning customers to recognize a friendly face, and we want our staff to greet our customers. We want our customers to see Dreams as ‘their car wash’; the only place they bring their vehicle for a trusted clean.”
Dreams turned to National Carwash Solutions (NCS) and its ZEP Vehicle Care Division for easy-on-the-environment chemicals that are biodegradable as well as effective. “Staff still need to be properly trained in terms of mix rates and safety. For example, those that handle chemicals need WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) training and certification.”
The express wash is a hybrid PECO automatic tunnel from distributor P.D. McLaren. Features include a five-zone wash system that uses soft cloth technology and a 12 producer flash dryer at the last stage, as well as a pulley conveyor to run about 100 vehicles per hour. “Having the pulley conveyor allows us to give wheels the total treatment. The system also uses neoprene foam to deliver a scratch-free friction wash that has been getting great remarks from our customers.”
Entry and exit systems are from SupraLift. “We use underground heating at the doors to reduce things like ice build-up. We also run the tunnel at a higher temperature during colder months to compensate for the difference between outside and inside air temps. And, while we have closed at -45ºC because the doors were frozen shut, we are typically the only wash operators open at -30ºC,” he says.
At the front end, Dreams turned to Hamilton Manufacturing for their paystation. “We have gone cashless with Hamilton’s CTK controller that allows us to sell wash bundles or single washes, and it can scan codes when we have promotions or need to comp a customer.”
Dreams also uses RFID stickers for its member customers. Memberships are for one wash per day and come in three packages—The Heavenly Wash ($50), Cloud 9 ($45), and Enhanced Basic ($40). Monthly passes are charged to credit cards on file and are automatically renewed. Single wash services offer a great one-time price. Tailored to clean, protect and shine, Heavenly Wash is $21 and includes Armor All Extreme Shine Wax, Rain-X for Wheels and Ceramic Seal. The Cloud 9 Wash is $16 and is designed to clean and protect vehicles. Cloud 9 offers a basic wash with bug prep, undercarriage treatment, triple foam, Rain-X Complete Surface Protection and two-step wheel cleaner. Enhanced Basic Wash is $12 and gives a double soft wash, as well as a spot-free rinse.
“All our wash products come with free vacuum, mat wash and high-pressure blowguns. And, we offer a special express lane for our membership customers to make each wash as fast as possible,” says Tallon, remarking that they designed the programs and the total wash package to be attractive to the widest possible demographic. “While we work hard to make this the most environmentally sensitive car wash, and it's attractive to groups that seek out this type of service, we believe our service goes beyond just sensitivity to the environment. We must achieve a great clean and, we have to do it in a way that is convenient and value-laden to our customers. Having a car wash that uses less water and eco-sensitive chemistry is just the starting point.”