Cactus Car Wash keeps the customers satisfied

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MILTON – Cactus Car Wash opened on Ga. 9 in Milton when Bob and Chris Rech decided after spending more than 12 years supplying restaurants with their sales systems, they needed to do something different.

“We thought this side of town needed a really good car wash,” Bob said.

With the brothers living in Milton, the location next to Walmart seemed ideal.

“Target, Home Depot, Lowes – it’s one-stop shopping in this area,” Chris said they thought at the time. And they had heard rumors that Kohl’s was moving in up the street.

They had observed several different car wash businesses and decided to own their own franchises. Subway was their biggest customers in their careers selling point-of-sale systems, so they knew the value of a franchise.

A quick Google of car washes showed them Cactus Car Wash had announced it was offering franchises. Having started in Charleston, S.C., in 1996, Cactus expanded to Atlanta in 1998 in Midtown. This facility became the busiest car wash in the United States, often washing 1,000 to 1,200 cars a day.

“That’s more than the average car wash does in one week. That’s in a day,” Chris said.

The Milton franchise is set up to handle that many cars, but it’s typical busy day so far is 700 cars. With so many people living in the Alpharetta/Milton area who work downtown and know about the Midtown location, they figured Milton was a good spot for a car wash with brand recognition. The first month they were opened still amazed them with the number of people who already knew the name and told the brothers they were glad Cactus had opened up here.

Most car washes using one person to finish a car take 35 to 40 minutes at least.

“We demand that car wash be done within 20 minutes and better than anybody else,” Chris said.

A supervisor checks every vehicle and then asks the customers to take a close look to make sure nothing was missed in the wash.

“We don’t want anybody driving off the lot unless they are completely happy.”

Children are happy to visit Cactus as the car wash has water cannons inside that they can use to spray the cars as they come through the car wash. These are the same type of cannons as used at Six Flags Whitewater Adventure.

The brothers, both fathers themselves, want Cactus to be kid friendly. They’ve both coached pretty much every sport, including Hopewell baseball, Alpharetta football and through the YMCA.

“I now coach West Forsyth baseball,” Chris said.

Bob coaches in the Milton feeder program

Chris has one child on the way, one age 6 and another almost 8. Bob has children ages 15, 4 and 2.

A Slushee machine helps keep the kids happy, too. And the car wash is pet friendly, too.

When a customer arrives, he or she will take to a sales person whose job it is to figure out what type of car wash is wanted, and then create the job ticket. A cashier will be encountered, but the car won’t be considered clean until both a supervisor and a manager checks it out, and then only if the customer has also inspected the vehicle to make sure everything is satisfactory.

If the customer chooses a detailing option, another Cactus employee will be there to make sure everything is handled properly.

Making customers’ experience as pleasurable as possible starts with the staff, and the brothers say they surround themselves with great people. Some of the finishers have been working at Cactus since it opened in November 2007, in an industry known for high turnover. And that’s despite the record rain last year cutting into the work days.

Car washes start at $5.95 for just an exterior wash that includes opening up the doors to do door jams. At $12.95 a customer gets a full service wash and buff, inside and out. Services can include premium detailing with full interior details and engine cleaning. A $6 VIP card allows customers to collect a point on the card every time they purchase a car wash service valued at $12.95 or more. Once they reach nine points, they can get a $17.95 discout, which happens to be the price of a special wash. But the points can keep accumulating to perhaps be used to try the top of the line, premium detail service at $199.95, which inclues washing, hand dry, vacuuming, window cleaning, shampooing and even the engine cleaned, plus waxing and other services.

The brothers point out upon purchasing a card a customer immediately gets a $5.95 voucher than can be used for a free exterior wash, or be used to discount any other service.

Customers with many cars can accumulate points quickly, as the card is for the customer, not the vehicle. Cactus is right at 4,000 VIP members, Bob said.

But the discounts don’t stop there. VIP members also are put on the newsletter list, which is sent out twice a month or more often. A recent newsletter announcing the car wash’s “Best Of” win included a coupon for $5.95 off a car wash, $10 off detailing, or $20 off super detailing.

When the car is done, a manager hands the customer an ice cold bottle of water and asks if they want any air fragrance sprayed in their vehicle.

“It’s the little things that keep people coming back,” Bob said.

The brothers have 60 to 70 employees on the payroll. They said a large staff is needed to handle the cars with the values they have. Multiple sales, detailers, cashiers and finishers have to be on staff, enough to handle 60 to 80 cars an hour.

While they wait, customers can enjoy the gourmet coffee bar, free TV, Wi-Fi and Internet access on several computers available for customers’ use.

“Some car washes try to cater to special cars,” Chris said.

“We treat every car the same,” Bob chimed in.

“We treat every car like it’s a Ferrari or Lamborghini. It’s nice also to see that in a detail shop,” Chris said.

That’s important these days, Bob said, as the economy has everyone trying to take care of their investment in their car.

On the issue of tunnel versus hand washing, the brothers say the new car wash tunnels are designed with soft cloth and neoporene, not brushes. Bob said a University of Texas study showed running a car through a modern tunnel wash is safer for the car than handwashing.

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