Recent snowstorms in Colorado Springs boosted the bottom line at Papa Tom’s Express Car Wash, the new automatic car wash at 301 E. Fillmore St. near North Nevada Avenue. The car wash, owned and operated by Brian Nystrom, features an east wall that is completely glass, so customers can watch cars travel 140 feet through the spray, wash, scrub, rinse, wax and dry stages. Nystrom, 38, brought 10 years of car wash management experience when he moved here last year from Texas. Between washing cars and shoveling snow, the Texas Tech grad discussed doing business in the Springs.
What lured you to Colorado Springs?
I was the [general manager] for multiple express car wash locations in Texas with each one grossing [more than] $1.5 million per year. The environment here is perfect for car washing. I moved up here for the environment and the snow. The city is beautiful and the people are friendly. Many reasons made this the perfect fit for me and my family. We absolutely love it here.
What makes Papa Tom’s unique?
I pride myself in being the friendliest wash in town with the same quality service each visit. We will smile, make conversation and give your pet a dog cookie each time you visit. We did not want to be just another car wash. We’ll clean your car — that’s our No. 1 goal, but we want it to be fun. We have lots of lights, fun people working here and it’s quick. It takes about three minutes to go through. We want people to say, “Let’s go there, because they’re going to make my day better. They’re going to make me laugh.” We offer four different wash packages and unlimited subscriptions, along with à la carte. I have employees on-site to greet you, prep your vehicle and hand-dry it. We have free vacuum parking spots too.
What investment did you make?
About $3 million, but our pro forma supports it. We washed almost 200 cars a day in our first three days open. We put almost 800 cars through before the weather came in. Our goal is 6,000 to 12,000 cars a month, and we hope to average at $10 a wash. I have always exceeded these figures at my previous four locations. We spent a lot of money on glass. It’s a lot more maintenance, but we want it to be nice and pretty. I leave the flashing and the red waterfall lights on at night just for fun. We want the kids to come here.
Do you plan to build more?
Yes. We hope to have four to five up here in four years. The city planning process takes a lot more time than I’m used to. We’re looking for future sites. We have money down [on commercial property in Monument]. It takes about six months to build and we expect to break ground mid-summer. We’re also looking at Falcon and other places in Colorado Springs, but we don’t have locations yet.
Why did you open at this location?
The traffic count is phenomenal. The Realtor sold me on this and we did about six months of research. This neighborhood is starting to turn and we’re excited about that. In five, 10 years, we’re already here. We saw great potential in the near future here and wanted to be part of this change for the better in the area. This is the best time to get involved in this particular area.
You use water twice during the process. Tell us about your on-site water reclamation.
Water’s expensive, but it’s more expensive when you release it to the sewer. You pay twice, buying it and releasing it. There would not be a car wash here if we did not use a reclaim system. The dirtiest water is immediately kicked out to the city. The cleanest water from the middle of the tunnel goes through a drain to about $60,000 worth of reclamation pits deep in the ground. There, it goes through three stages. The dirt settles, the oil rises and we take water from the middle. That water is cleaned, then kicked back to the car wash. The reused water is only used in the front half of the car wash. The middle to end is all fresh water.
We invested six figures in our water reclamation system. We’re pretty green. Our chemicals are all biodegradable. It helps us stay in business, and it’s a lot better for the environment. It’s a big up-front investment, but it pays off in time.