We visited Mario Munoz at M&M Car Wash, a clean, attractive location he operates in the heart of El Paso, Texas. One of several car washes he leases or owns, Mario gave us a quick tour of the self-serve facility and sat down with us for a conversation about his business and the car wash industry. We found out that he has an interesting life path that started in Central America and brought him to the U.S.A.
Early Life in Honduras
Mario Munoz is one of six siblings born in Honduras – he has three brothers and two sisters. When it was time for him to enter high school, he chose to enter a technical trade school instead of taking the standard curriculum route. He gained an array of skills like welding, auto repair, and electrical work, and the education was solid enough that he was prepared to go to college for engineering. When it came time to make that decision, he opted to visit the states for what he thought would be a temporary six-month stay. Turned out, he ended up staying permanently!
First Years in the United States
In 1987, he went to Los Angeles, California because he had some extended family who already lived there. He needed a job to support himself, and found one drying vehicles at a car wash. Management soon found out he was even more valuable than they realized, with his abilities extending well past the entry-level position for which he was hired.
Mario recalled, “The car wash kept breaking down. With my technical background, I’d say ‘Hey, man, we can fix it. Let’s not wait for the service man.’ We’d get the car wash going and the technician would show up and say, ‘What’s going on here?!’ [Other employees] would point at me and say, ‘that guy is going to take your job!’” Mario thought it was funny at the time, not realizing right away that it would lead him to bigger things in the future.
The technician, who worked on Hanna car wash systems, offered Mario a position repairing car washes. It was a good job with a steady income, but it would ultimately just serve as a stepping stone for Mario. The role required a lot of late work because many car washes wanted repairs to be done overnight so the car wash could be fully operational by morning. It wore Mario down, and didn’t seem like the exact fit for him, so he decided to leave the company.
Mario Munoz Puts Down Roots in El Paso
In 1988, Mario visited a friend in El Paso. He liked the area and decided to stay, but of course needed another job in his new locale. He saw a car wash company and inquired within to see if they were hiring, and did indeed get a job. That company was JMJ Sales, owned by Jules Bennett. Jules had a son named John Bennett, who started a company called Sun Country Car Wash Systems that built and repaired car washes. Sun Country hired Mario, and he had an excellent career there for twenty-two years. While there, Mario was also in charge of purchasing all the equipment and supplies they used, and that is when he began his relationship with Kleen-Rite.
Becoming an Entrepreneur
While travelling to repair washes, Mario came across a number of owners who were either growing too old to operate their locations or didn’t want the hassle of dealing with them anymore. With some savings he’d acquired, he began leasing his first car wash while still employed at Sun Country. Eventually, he left Sun Country to focus on his own car wash endeavors, starting a business running them in the El Paso area. He continued using Kleen-Rite as his primary supplier.
Not long after, Mario’s youngest brother wanted to come to the states, but didn’t have a job lined up. He talked to Mario about working for him, since he also had valuable engineering capabilities. They arranged a visa for him, he became part owner of the company, and he began running a car wash in northern New Mexico. Mario credits him with being a big help and a crucial part of his success. They plan to bring another brother, also an engineer, into the fold. He currently still lives in Honduras, but Mario hopes he joins them in the near future.
Mario Munoz Family and Future
In 1993, Mario was “dragged to a party” that he didn’t really care to attend. It worked out well for him, as he was fortunate enough to meet his future wife, Gracie. They soon started a relationship, married in 1995, and now have three children together. Mario A, Mario G’s son who carries his name, is currently 23 years old and preparing to graduate from UTEP with a business degree in marketing. Their daughter Millie, 20, also attends UTEP for business. She models and participates in notable beauty pageants like Miss Teen El Paso (achieved top 5) and Miss Texas. Karina, their youngest daughter, is a 15-year-old sophomore at Coronado High School with her sights on a future in sports medicine.
Mario and his family now operate a total of fifteen car washes, leasing twelve of them and owning three of them outright. Mario’s robust, energetic car wash empire stretches from El Paso, Texas to northern New Mexico, with a Las Cruces presence in between. Future plans include buying more of the locations he currently leases, while re-evaluating some of the spots to determine their strength based on location and surrounding car wash competition.
It was obvious talking to Mario that the car wash industry has served him well – and vice-versa. His innate abilities combined with a relentless work ethic make him a perfect fit for the car wash world. He’s humble and has an incredibly pleasant demeanor, while also being rightly proud of the family and business he’s grown.
We’re happy to be a small part of Mario’s success story, and look forward to many more years of fruitful partnership!