Tommy's Express Car Wash, a car wash franchise based in Holland, Michigan, is moving ahead with plans to open first location outside of the U.S., right here in Canada—specifically, in Brampton, Ont.
Tommy's Express Car Wash is a sister company to Tommy Car Wash Systems, an organization with roots dating back to 1969. That year, Jun and Sonny Essenburg launched the first Quality Car Wash, which featured a dual rollover system.
Over the years, the company introduced many innovations to the car wash business, including the first-ever wet tunnel belt conveyor (introduced in 2002), modular building designs, stainless steel car wash equipment and an advanced Wash Club license plate reader system, which debuted in 2017. Two years later, the company celebrated another landmark occasion; a Quality Car Wash established a record by washing an astonishing 3,255 vehicles in a single day.
While operators in Canada have utilized the Tommy Car Wash Systems equipment line for some time, this new development represents the first time a Tommy’s Express franchise will open on our shores.
The company announced its plan to expand into Canada early last year, breaking ground in Q4 and the vision is to open the Brampton site in 2023. In the meantime, the brand is continuing to focus on expansion in Canada by exhibiting at The Convenience U CARWACS Show.
OCTANE had the chance to interview Tommy Car Wash Systems company president and CIO Ryan Essenburg to dive deeper on the news.
OCTANE: What is the rationale behind entering the Canadian market for the first time as a franchisee?
Ryan Essenburg: We had previously built several car washes through our equipment manufacturing company, Tommy Car Wash Systems, and had great success with new investors who were owner/operators. This paved the way for Tommy's Express to take the owner/operator mindset of car wash franchising to the Canadian market, which has previously been dominated by oil companies and in-bay automatics.
Why is the timing right for this decision?
RE: A technology leap has taken place in recent years making many old car washes and old processes [seem obsolete]. This has created a blue ocean for modern technology using belt conveyors, app-based club memberships, and high processing tunnel systems. This new upscale car wash sector is nearly entirely unserved in Canada.
How did you select the first location?
RE: With Tommy's Express being a car wash franchise, we follow the leadership of our well qualified initial franchise partners to select the best strategic markets to rollout our first locations.
What can you say about plans for the Canadian market in the next six months / year / five years?
RE: Our initial franchise partners working to develop the country have identified the first locations, however the process can at times take two years to go through the project development steps from entitlements through engineering and construction. Our modular building system reduces the development time over conventional construction methods, but the process still requires multiple sites to be developed simultaneously.
What is the common denominator underpinning these multiple sites?
RE: We’re starting by serving the most under-served markets and then filling in the gaps between the locations. We project to build 500 Tommy’s Express Car Wash locations in Canada, based on our optimal market saturation, but this will require around 20 years to build out.
For some time now, it’s become clear that the car wash business in Canada has tremendous untapped potential. This move by Tommy Car Wash Systems confirms that fact and should light a fire among the owner-operators already in business in this country. When a market-leader with innovative solutions jumps in, all others need to take notice.
“Tommy Car Wash Systems represents the best the car wash equipment the industry has to offer, from our commitment to customer experience to the custom, proprietary equipment we pioneered to give you the finest car wash result possible!” says Essenburg, “We are excited to expand the franchise into Canada and look forward to continuing development internationally.”