Steve Sunde has traces of a Minnesota accent, where he originally hails from, and all the friendliness and congeniality one might expect from an upper Midwesterner. He now resides in Bullhead City, Arizona, where he owns and operates Foam & Froth Car Wash.
Finding Bullhead City, AZ
Before he owned a car wash, Sunde worked as a general contractor doing finish work at hotels. He roamed around the country in a motorhome for that job, while also logging plenty of miles travelling for pleasure and visiting family members spread out around the nation.
One of his bucket list items was to take his motorhome to a hot air balloon festival in Arizona. He had a chance to attend the festival on the way to visit his daughter for USC’s homecoming weekend, where she was a student at the time, and another daughter who is an actress in Los Angeles.
When Sunde and his wife Vicky neared the festival, she mentioned that she had heard of a “mini Las Vegas” in the area. He pulled over and examined his map, realizing that Bullhead City was the place she was describing – a bustling city along the sparkling Colorado River with several elaborate casinos ascending skyward out of the desert. Comparable to Lake Mead and the Vegas Skyline, calling Bullhead City a “mini Las Vegas” is an apt description.
The pair spent the night there and were enamored. Vicky was a successful realtor, and she recognized the area was ripe for potential growth in the future. They bought a fixer upper in Bullhead City and sat on it for a few years.
Early Stages of Foam & Froth Car Wash
On another trip through the area, Sunde noticed a small 4-bay car wash in a local real estate magazine. It interested him, but seemed overpriced at around $600,000. Vicky recommended he use his general contracting background to his advantage and build his own with the assistance of their architect son-in-law. Their design focused heavily on adding large bays to cater to snowbirds with RVs in the winter, and tourists with boats and trailers in the summer months. Other points of interest included in their design were a full apartment, a small coffee shop, and a pet wash – a novel idea at the time.
Once the initial planning stages were done, Sunde and his wife found a piece of prime property near the Colorado River, close to Fort Mohave and Laughlin, that was a spacious location well-situated for a wash.
Sunde was SBA approved and had bank funding in place to get the business moving. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer at this time and had to prioritize his health. The Sundes lived in Moorhead, Minnesota, near Fargo, North Dakota and the home of the Roger Maris Cancer Center. Sunde was able to receive incredible care at the esteemed facility. He received his last infusion on March 1, 2006, which synced up nicely with his building permit approval on March 6, 2006. By fall 2006, Foam & Froth was open for business.
Sunde spent eleven and a half years living in the built-in apartment, so he was on site nearly 24/7 for over a decade. His wife was still back in Minnesota continuing her real estate career. They both travelled back and forth to see each other during this period. Other than that, Steve mostly devoted his time to developing the foundation of a great car wash business.
Reliable Employees Strengthen the Business
“We built a great reputation in town. It’ll be fifteen years we’ve been in business. You get your naysayers every now and then, but that’s just the name of the game. The good outweighs the bad,” Sunde remarked proudly.
A big part of the everyday operations is his trusted crew. Dennis, Al, and Ricky are all retirees working part time to run the wash. They function well together to keep things going smoothly, from interfacing with customers to doing repairs and maintenance.
“We’ve got a good thing going. I trust these guys and I don’t have to worry about them counting the money, taking the money out… nothing. I’d trust these guys with my life.”
Ray is another employee who does bookkeeping and is a “computer whiz,” acting as an important part of the business side of Foam & Froth Car Wash. Vicky also helps with bookkeeping and general operations.
Bullhead City’s Economic Prosperity
Sunde was complimentary of the city leadership, noting: “Our city manager is aggressive and knows what he is doing. He’s been instrumental in getting a lot of business to come here.”
It so happens that some of that business is other car washes, but Sunde has never been concerned about that. Consisting of tunnels and self-serves, these competitors simply can’t offer the same experience that Foam & Froth can with its large bays and touchless automatics. Steve focuses more on the positive, appreciating the overall economic prosperity.
“The area is growing. If all that stuff is growing, that means I’m going to grow. There are more houses going up, and each of those houses has two cars. It’s rare to even see a place with one car.”
The growth is not just casinos and river tourism, either. For example, they have incredible baseball, softball, and soccer fields used for sizable tournaments many weekends. Their soccer complex is capable of hosting tournaments with as many as 150 teams. Sunde mentioned these things as a sports fan, but also as a wise business owner appreciating the economic health of the area.
Kleen-Rite – Foam & Froth’s Preferred Supplier
Steve first met folks from Kleen-Rite at the ICA show in Las Vegas and the huge product selection impressed him. Being able to get nearly everything in one spot made Kleen-Rite a no-brainer to be Steve’s primarily supplier.
“I didn’t want a bunch of vendors calling on me. Others quit calling me because they know I’ll just stay with Kleen-Rite. It’s been a good experience. Being with Kleen-Rite has been wonderful. I got to know the people up in Las Vegas [at the warehouse]. It’s easy for me. If I do need a part, I can get there in an hour and a half. That’s been nice.”
Steve is handy enough to fabricate some of his parts, and he has one guy who occasionally sells him parts. Kleen-Rite is his go-to for virtually everything else.
Foam & Froth Car Wash Running Strong
Steve has received multiple generous offers for his wash. He’s briefly considered selling and slowing life down, but has ultimately decided against it. The only significant change is that he stopped running the coffee shop, instead renting it to a father-daughter team who run “The Hut,” a fresh sandwich shop that city residents love.
A nasty bout of Covid that had him days away from a ventilator kept him temporarily sidelined him. After again getting great medical care – he couldn’t praise hospital staff enough – he’s back at it and hasn’t missed a step.
Steve has a side passion as a certified official for U.S. track and field. He’s officiated some events in the Phoenix area, is trying to work his way into the World Games in Eugene, Oregon in summer 2022, and has an ultimate goal of grabbing a spot at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
Steve clearly has great energy for life and running his car wash, and we are glad he has decided to remain at the helm and continue to be a Kleen-Rite customer. Under his care, and with such a dependable crew, Foam & Froth is sure to remain a highly respected Bullhead City business.