Car wash on wheels
cleans up in Conejo
THOUSAND OAKS - All Lance Winslow wanted when, as a youngster, he bartered his washing skills at the airport, was a free airplane ride - what he got was a livelihood.
Now 24, Winslow was 12 when he launched - inadvertently - Aero-Auto Wash by cleaning airplanes for free rides and tips. He has since graduated from planes to cars, although he says he will wash any vehicle.
Towing a trailer with a generator, two 100-gallon tanks of water, hoses, towels and soap, the Thousand Oaks man goes each workday from parking lot to parking lot in search of business.
Winslow says he usually finds it.
"There are 16 million cars in California," he said. "All I'm doing is getting people used to letting somebody else wash their car."
Today, Winslow employs seven people, who with four traveling car wash rigs, scrub about 100 cars a day - at $5 per wash.
Maureen Androski, a customer representative for a Thousand Oaks insurance company, said that she appreciates the convenience of not having to move her car or wait at a more conventional car wash.
"The last time I had my car done at a normal car wash, they only cleaned half the car," Androski said. "These guys are terrific and they do a wonderful job."
Over the din of the portable generator, the young entrepreneur said recently that he once sold his Aero-Auto Wash business because of school commitments but bought it back when he was 18.
To expand his operation, Winslow solicited investors in 1985 and eventually bought them out. In all, Winslow owns six car wash set-ups - two of which are leased out to local automobile detailers.
Winslow said that he plans to franchise his operation at $25,000 a piece.
"It's a terrific deal," David Sirotti, 21, one of Winslow's employees, shouted, as he continued drying a customer's blue Toyota. "I'm gonna buy one, no question about it."
Winslow said the secret of his success is simple: keep prices low, show up on time and do good work.
"The overhead is pretty low and if I franchise it, I would supply everything and train all the franchisees," he said.
Calling the cars he washes "units," Winslow said that it costs him 17 cents for soap, 11 cents for towels and about 2½ cents for the deionized water he uses to wash each car.
"The water doesn't leave spots - especially noticeable on black cars - and should any of it get on an adjacently parked car, it won't show," Winslow said.
Because of the maneuverability of the car wash, Winslow said, his clients don't have to move their cars.
Although cars are Winslow's bread and butter, he noted that he washes trains, trucks and airplanes. Winslow also will do graffiti removal or anything else that can be cleaned by steam or soap and water.
"We charge $700 to clean a Caterpillar after it's been in the mud," he said. "They have to be steam cleaned. Cement trucks need an acid solution."
Reprinted from Daily News,1988.