Life is not a breeze after graduating college. Neither is finding a stable job with a reliable income. Craig Off, owner of Ocean and Off Shore Car Washes in Absecon, New Jersey, experienced this shocking reality.
The Beginning of Entrepreneurship
After studying marketing in college, Craig told us, “I had a hard time finding a real job making real money and ended up working for a friend who owned a car wash.” As he spent time working with his friend, Craig realized the car wash industry was a fit for him. Craig’s entrepreneurship journey in the car wash industry began 36 years ago.
Craig researched profitable locations to open a car wash and found a spot with the right amount of traffic in Absecon, New Jersey. The land was the perfect size to construct a wash. Craig had his car wash designed with a few self-serve bays and an automatic bay.
Adapting with the Market
After about five years, Craig removed the automatic system and opted for seven self-serve bays in the first location. The IBA wasn’t really worth the hassle in Craig’s eyes. Craig said he removed the automatic bay because “You need to call someone in to make repairs, which means the bay is down, ranging from a few hours to a day or two depending on where the technician is coming from.” In addition, Craig mentioned, “automatic car wash systems are being built like new cars, where the manufacturer is the only one who can repair them.” Lastly, Craig told us between running two washes and self-storage business he did not have the time to be on site to run the IBA. Craig noted that the market in New Jersey leans towards self-serve bays which means people did not really miss the in-bay automatic that much. The IBA never really got enough traction and Craig said “my numbers stayed relatively the same for awhile and eventually did better without the in-bay automatic.”
Purchasing a Second Location
Craig took a different path with his next wash. He decided to purchase a location owned by a friend. The second wash contains six self-serve bays. The purchase of this wash included a self-storage business behind the location. Operating two businesses so close to one another reduces the time Craig spends traveling. Craig told us the self-storage business is much easier to operate even though he knew nothing about it. He said “to operate a car wash, you need much more mechanical knowledge than you do in a self-storage business.”
Word of Mouth Advertising
We asked Craig what he does to advertise both his car washes. He said, “I don’t need to do much advertising with both locations being in high traffic areas.” He also told us, “My customers refer one another through word of mouth.” The mayor is a frequent customer and told Craig he enjoys using his car wash and to continue doing what he is doing because it works. Receiving an endorsement from the mayor is a remarkable achievement! Craig likes to help out his community. Craig told us he likes helping out the girl scouts and participating in other fundraising odds and ends rather than large events. He said, “You can run into liability issues if you allow kids to wash people’s cars, so it’s easier to just write out checks, it’s harder to run fundraisers through self-serve bays.” Charity work is a great way to increase word of mouth advertising.
Advice for Future Car Wash Owners
Having been in the position of starting his own business, Craig enjoys seeing other young entrepreneurs succeed. Many people are hesitant to open a new car wash. Craig, a 36-year industry expert offered advice to new entrepreneurs. He said “Do your research on the location, accessibility of the site, the present utilities (gas, water, sewers, electric, etc.) and run the numbers. Homework is key!”
Another tip Craig offered is that consistency is paramount to the success of a car wash business. Customers will return when they repeatedly see exceptional results. Craig said, “Just the other day, a customer told me that my wash is consistent which, is why they return time after time.
The last piece of advice Craig provided us for new car wash owners is to keep up with things. Craig said, “Don’t stay behind the 8-ball!” If you let one problem go, the more likely it is to cause a domino effect of problems in other equipment. The key to providing consistency to your customers is to remain on top of repairs and maintenance.
Who is Craig Off?
Craig is an extremely active person. In his free time, he enjoys boating, skiing and other recreational activities. However, Craig’s wife and his two sons are the most important in his life. The last member of his family is a beautiful German Shepard who you can see featured during the month of August with Craig in this year’s Car Wash calendar.
A 36 Year Kleen-Rite Customer
Since he began his career in the car wash industry, Craig has been a Kleen-Rite customer. As we mentioned earlier, while he was figuring out his career path he worked for a friend who owned a car wash. Craig’s friend bought his supplies from Kleen-Rite. Craig could see Kleen-Rite was a great place to purchase supplies for his washes and became one of our customers.
He insists, “You can’t beat Kleen-Rite’s Prices.” When he places an order, he purchases a pallet full of supplies. Buying a pallet of supplies often qualifies him to reach the purchase threshold to obtain free shipping through our rewards program.
He said, “Now that you have the points system to help get free shipping, I use it all the time!” Check out our rewards program to learn more if you’re interested in getting free shipping for your orders.
During our chat with Craig, he told us how much he likes our customer service department because they are excellent at taking care of problems when they occasionally surface. Our world is far from perfect, and just like any other business, we run into problems. However, what sets us apart is we make it right!
Craig had nothing but positive words regarding his experience with Kleen-Rite. At the end of our conversation, he told us, “Kleen-Rite makes it easier.” We’re glad we make running your car washes easier and look forward to seeing your business continue to grow!
Best of luck in the future and thank you for sharing your story with us.