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Site Selection for Eco Express

As a prospective owner, one of the big challenges you will face is finding the best possible location for your wash.  As in any retail business, location can have an enormous impact on the success or failure of your facility.  Many elements go into finding an optimum site such as traffic count, competition, demographics, population, etc.


In our case, besides needing a great location, we wanted one close to our facilities to provide a convenient location to take prospective customers.  This was a challenge, given the high amount of industrial and commercial land use near our facility, as well as limited locations of sufficient size and correct zoning that would allow for a car wash.


As we reviewed potential sites, we used a mathematical model we had developed over the past 4 years for express tunnel washes in the Rocky Mountain region to project daily cars washed and profitability at each site.  This model had proved to be fairly accurate in forecasting financial proforma at our customers’ sites, and we were confident in its use at these sites.


One of the elements that comes into play in finding a site can be timing and luck.  In our case both came in to play.  Immediately adjacent to our facility is a piece of land a little over one acre in size, on which sat a restaurant.  During the past 5 years it had gone in and out of business several times, but never generated a sufficient customer base to stay in business.


During the most recent closure of the restaurant, we decided to run our prediction model for that site.  Our initial guess was that the model would determine it to be a mediocre site due to heavy industrial and commercial district to the north of the wash.  To our surprise however, even the conservative proformas turned out to be very strong.


We then conducted sensitivity analysis using the model to determine what future factors could have on the site such as increased competition, changes in traffic flow and patterns might have.  In all our analysis they still showed a very strong site.


Another major hurdle in finding the right site is finding one on which a municipality will let you build.  Besides having zoning restrictions, they will often have specific development plans for an area, restriction on types of businesses, and so forth.  In our case, it was zoned Industrial and had no development restrictions.  In essence, we could build anything we wanted there so long as it did not involve a nuclear reactor! (That would require a variance with a moderate amount of paperwork).


Other less important items can be stumbling blocks to building a car wash.  In a facility of this magnitude, it requires substantial electrical, water, sewer and gas services.  In some locations these may not be available, or expensive to obtain.  For example in Aurora a 2” water tap can cost upwards of $200,000, or 3-phase power may not be readily available.  The lot size and shape can also impact the type, size and layout of a wash.


In our case, we really got lucky.  The site was already supplied with a 2” water line, sewer and three phase power.  Additionally, the site was sized perfectly and shaped almost optimally for our plans.  The only negative aspect was being slightly below grade from the main street level, and a fairly substantial slope to the west.  Not a deal killer, but just one of the many obstacles we had to overcome.