Pennsylvania raised, Chris Woelfle found himself drawn to the workings of motor vehicles leading him into the car wash business today. Owner of Manor Car Wash, Woelfle maintains an efficient and flexible credit card operated auto wash and pet cleaning facility.
Starting as a fabricator welder and working his way through, Chris bought into a Sunoco service station with a partner in 1985. Shortly after he ended up putting in a one bay car wash on the side of the building and eventually expanded to Manor Street in 1988.
“I’m essentially living the previous owner’s life, living in the Millersville house he grew up in and now running his car wash business, it’s pretty spectacular to say the least,” Woelfle said.
Manor Street Car wash was built in October of 1967 and was owned by Clyde Ament. Soon after that it was passed down to his son, Danny Ament and was bought by Chris on April 1, 1988.
To Chris, owning a car wash seemed like a pretty easy task to take on. He wanted the repair shop that was attached to Manor street wash so he thought why not!
“I knew that Manor wash needed some serious repair and I did it almost as an afterthought and somehow it built itself into a great business.”
With everything that Chris has done, Kleen-Rite has supplied him with majority of his products. Grabbing ideas out from their bi-annual Kleen-Scenes, attending shows, Chris is constantly updating and keeping up with the new technologies in the car wash business. Using things like Cryptopay, a credit card acceptance system, was the best thing that Chris could discover for his customers.
“No one seems to carry cash on them anymore especially quarters or coins of some sort, so switching over to Cryptopay really saved me time and accumulated a lot of revenue.”
Weekends, Chris says is his busiest time of the week so you have to make sure that everything is working constantly. Going out and checking your equipment every day, making sure all booms and swivels move in a constant motion. Even the little things like picking up trash and making sure your car wash is in pristine condition, makes all the difference.
“I have had people come up to me and personally thanking me for keeping my car wash the way I do. They appreciate the fact that when they swipe their credit card everything works, and they don’t have to worry about wasting their time and money at a place that’s not functional. If you take pride in your car wash, people will reciprocate that feeling back.”
Chris says car washes make up for what you put into them. They are a huge investment but if you’re willing to spend the money and time, you will make that up right away. Owning an auto mechanic shop, Chris also says his three bays almost exceeds the revenue from the 30-35 cars that come through for auto repair.
“Car washes are without a doubt something to get into, you just have to be willing to educate yourself and have patience.”
With as many machines and operations happening throughout the day, it’s in evitable that things are bound to break down. As a car wash owner, you have to be able to delegate your time and know which things are the most important to fix first.
“I don’t know how you could get into a business like this and not have any knowledge of plumbing or electrical of some sort. I don’t like to waste time or money so if I have to call a repair man to come out each time to repair something, that is just not something I want to worry about or spend my money on.”
Chris installs everything himself, whether it is the wiring of a new machine or building a new bay. These kinds of mechanical issues can be complicated and if you do not have the knowledge about these issues, continuance to survive may be close to non-existent.
With that being said, simplicity is always the answer with a hands-on business such as this. The more complicated you make things, more than likely your customers will leave and move on to the next car wash.
“When I first started, I had only 2 options in my self-serve bays and now I have 8. I have come to find that more options do build more interest and time with customers but I have also found that it can confuse them as well. Some people just want wax but end up getting other things as well which discourages them but that is how the system works. I’ve added self-serve tire shine, foamy brush, and awesome Air-Shammee-blow dryers.”
It’s not every day someone just wakes up and says to themselves I want to start a car wash today. It’s a process that you must take your mind through and really figure out if financially you can really do such a business.
“Be prepared to not eat for a while, for getting into the car wash business takes time and perseverance to build up. You must get smart and have the ability to fix your own equipment otherwise you won’t survive. Pay attention to technology and do not ignore it. But above all, Expect the unexpected.”
Chris has been in the car wash for many years and has learned along the way what it takes to be a successful business owner. He says keeping your car lot clean and clear is a must, making sure traffic is flowing properly is a must, and having spare parts for everything on your shelves is a must. Chris says there isn’t anything he doesn’t have that is not already on the shelf.
“This industry is a mind game, you have to always be one step ahead in order to be on point with everything you do. Even if I don’t need a certain part right away, I still have it on my shelf because you just never know.”
By Chelsea Dimmig
Kleen-Rite Corp Staff Writer
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