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50 Most Trustworthy Companies of the Year 2020

Celebrating 50 years of innovation Tommy’s Express’s Car Wash is where legacy meets cutting-edge design, equipment, and facilities

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For some, car wash is a ritual; they prioritize to keep their car looking its bestevery week. For others, it’s a hectic task, which they only do when they notice caked-on dirt that has turned their car into completely different color. For most car owners, the priority is always to keep the outside of the car clear. This makes sense, as that’s what the others see. However, there are good reasons to dedicate time to keep the interior of your car clean, preferably through a car cleaning services expert well versed in all aspects of vehicular maintenance.

Tommy Car Wash Systems is a 50-year-old car wash company offering a wide array of services. The firm is built on a legacy of cutting-edge design and operations, enhancing their customers’ driving experience by offering world-class car maintenance services for cars of all makes and models. Tommy Car Wash Systems comprises passionate car wash professionals working to create opportunities for their partners, to become the best car wash, operators. The team has assisted in the development of hundreds of the most successful car washes around the world.

In Conversation with Ryan Essenburg, President and CIO Tommy Express Car Wash 

Q. Can you explain your services in brief? What motivated you to reinvent the car washing technique?

Tommy’s Express provides fast and professional car washing services. Our app-based unlimited club program allows you to wash as often as you like for under $30 / month. Our facilities are designed for the top-quality wash while saving you precious time. All locations also provide self-serve interior cleaning centers with free vacuuming and mat wash stations.

The car wash industry was and still is one of the most fragmented and, indeed, failures of the rollout. I watched many people come and go attempting to build a national brand, but most had no foundation. We spent the last 20 years building the foundation to properly execute a global carwash chain to deliver fast and high-quality car washing to under-served communities.

Q. Can you tell us about your successful journey to date?

In 2019, we celebrated our 50th year of business, starting in 1969 with our car washes in Michigan. We grew that chain to 6 locations and then expanded into car wash equipment development. We saw a need to design more robust products made of stainless steel to support high volume car washes. We patented our round arch equipment design and later patented our iconic building design as products available to car wash investors. We built several hundred car washes for other people using our building and equipment components, including our detergents line and controller technologies, which were very successful. A notch above the current car washes in the industry. We felt like we were building ‘fighter jet car washes, without the pilot’s license to fly them.’ Around 2010, we began the steps to connect cutting edge products, with 50 years of processes. We combined the two halves supply chain and corporate store process expertise to form Tommy’s Express Car Wash.

Q. There are other players in this vertical. How do you distinguish yourself from the rest?  

We modernize a very primitive car wash industry with a unique platform for easy exterior car washing, conveniently located on retail corners. The fast wash process automatically allows us to wash over 200 cars per hour with no manual effort in the wash process. Our app enables customers to come through at their convenience with unlimited carwashing for a flat monthly rate. Our guests can wash their vehicles at any location worldwide with their membership. We provide an “effortless” wash experience for the guests to get in quickly. Our safe and fast wash process saves our guests time, while our competitors usually have to manually pre-wash the vehicle. We also created a moving floor belt conveyor system to make it easy to load your car into our car washes without having to line up. We then created a mobile app to manage your unlimited membership and eliminated any need to get out of your car or roll your window down. Topped with overall guest experience provides our guests with a memorable experience that turns them into raving fans for a lifetime.

Q. How do you manage to maintain your services’ affordability and profitability, especially in the insanely competitive car wash business?

The answer is frequency. We’ve all heard the phrase; if you build it, they will come. In our business, simply put, availability increases the frequency. In our hometown headquarters, we created what is likely the world record of cars washed per capita per year. We did this by being on the best locations in town, even pivoting sites to better lots. And secondly by mastering processing. Processing expertise is how we achieved over 3,000 cars in a single day and 60,000 vehicles in a month at a single location. Today we have over 100,000 members nationwide, and we expect that number to increase exponentially from here on. Our unlimited car wash membership allows you to wash from California to Virginia and Florida to Minnesota, all for a low monthly price under $30 / month.

Q. How do you provide your customers with an experience that leaves them happy and feel rewarded?

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One of the blessings of our business is that we get to make people feel great. When your car looks great, you feel great. When you offer a service that makes people look and feel good, they enjoy the purchase. Then we combine that with incredible value for our frequent users. The unlimited program rewards people who commit to always having a clean vehicle, making them look great, and making the city look great while saving money. Then the finishing touch is millennial designed user experience. No clunky pay stations to interact with, no hassle or upsells, no one yelling at you while loading, no one touching your car, no tipping, and a clean self-detailing station at every vacuum allowing for your own space and pace without having to get kids out or leave your vehicle.

Q. What are your plans for the growth of your company?

We plan to expand in almost every U.S. market until we thoroughly serve the underserved cities, both corporate-owned and franchised locations. We have expanded through acquisitions of a PLC controls company and a marketing company to grow the resources. We’ll continue to scale through the development of proprietary products to support our stores.

The Pioneer behind the glorious success of Tommy’s Express Car Wash

Ryan Essenburg is the President and also serves as the Chief Innovation Officer of Tommy’s Express Car Wash. He is a 3rd generation car washer and founder of Tommy’s Express Car Wash. Ryan’s grandfather June started in the business in 1969, building their first corporate-owned car washes. Ryan’s father, Tom, expanded the business throughout West Michigan and a global carwash equipment manufacturing business. After building hundreds of car washes “the old way,” Ryan combined the equipment technology and 50 years of corporate operations to create Tommy’s Express Car Wash franchise.

“Our unlimited car wash membership allows you to wash from California to Virginia and Florida to Minnesota, all for a low monthly price under $30 / month.”