Car Wash Guys have thriving business despite drought
by LAURIE KOCH THROWER
SCCN Staff Writer

They've discovered that not everyone really thinks having a dirty car is fashionable - a preference that has the profits pouring in for some enterprising young men.

They call themselves The Car Wash Guys, and boast "The World' First Portable Car Wash."

The concept is simple.  The portable car wash arrives at your place of business, a friendly and efficient young person washes your vehicle right there in the parking lot for a reasonable $5 and drives off - having expended a mere 2-3 gallons on the job.

The Guys purchase their own water from private sources - water companies and private well owners who run the wells for profit.

The Car Wash Guys for the Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria area are Lance Winslow and Chris Scherle, two men who obviously love their jobs and have big plans for the operation.

Lance Winslow, 25, the owner of the business, is the main Car Wash Guy.  Winslow insists he is not just a drought entrepreneur.  He actually started the business five years ago in Southern California, polishing the vehicles of utility companies, postal services and the like, eventually stacking up nearly 150 accounts.

But his dream was to develop "the people' car wash."  He wanted all cars, from Mercedes to 25-year old Volkswagens to get equal treatment.  So he developed routes centered around business districts.

The business grew and eventually Winslow needed to hire partners and franchise the locations out to other Car Wash Guys.  With the success the Guys had elsewhere, Winslow decided to try out the portable wash in thirsty Santa Barbara.

And they say the response to what was started out as just an experimental run in Santa Barbara is unbelievable.

"It's so insane, but it's so real," marveled Winslow.

"Business has been phenomenal," agreed Scherle, who along with Winslow washes, on average, 100 cars a day, spending an average of 5 cents a gallon for water.  Even if that's just the basic $5 wash job, it amounts to a tidy profit at the end of the week.

"Every time we stop the truck, we get more business than we planned," said Scherle.

"The drought certainly hasn't hurt us," Scherle said, but maintained that if the skies opened and rain fell tomorrow, the Guys would still be in business.  The business is custom-designed for people of the '90s.    No waiting in line, no relinquishing the car to a washer for half an hour.   A basic wash takes a mere five minutes.

Winslow and Scherle tackle a car together, expending five minutes on a basic job and half an hour on a deluxe $22 wash and wax.  They promise the job is extremely water efficient, they hardly leave a drop on the ground under the car.

"We are so efficient, we've got this thing down to a science," insists Winslow.

So far, their advertising has been minimal, their popularity mostly spreading by word of mouth and a few fliers they have circulating around town.   Winslow said people are passing those fliers through the area.

After a day of intense washing, the Guys come home to their answering machine, listen to the messages, return the calls and set up appointments.   "That's always my project in the evening," said Scherle.

The straightforward name was a matter of necessity, said Winslow.  He used to have a corporation sounding name for the business, but people had a hard time remembering it.  He noticed that whenever the Guys arrived somewhere, everyone would always say, "the car wash guys are here."  So, why not, he thought.

The Guys get around by routes.  On Mondays and Wednesdays they clean the vehicles of Montecito.  Tuesdays are devoted to Carpinteria.  The lower State Street area of Santa Barbara is Thursday's challenge; the upper portion belongs to Friday.

Right now, there are not enough trucks of Guys for regular residential routes; they do cars at home for customers, but only after-hours and by appointment.

But that will soon change, insists the Guys.  Winslow envisions a time when getting a car wash will be as simple as dialing out for a pizza.   Besides the success from a business angle, Winslow says a great thrill is that they are liked nearly everywhere they go.

Part of that is the kind of Guys Winslow hires.  He said he turns away about a dozen would-be Car Wash Guys a day.  It's tough, but he's looking for a certain type.

A Car Wash Guy must be athletic to handle the vigorous pace; and clean-cut and friendly to get along with the customers.

And, the formula seems to be working.  "Wherever we go, we're treated like heroes," Winslow said.

Reprinted from Montecito Life,  June 28, 1990.

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