Big Dan’s Big Ambitions

Opening of the Big Dan's Car Wash in Lady Lake, FloridaBig Dan's Car Wash

While Florida is still recovering from hurricane Ian and some car washes might need some repairs before they can reopen, Big Dan’s Car Wash is already making plans for the future. Within five years they want 50 washes up and running. “Car washing isn’t just about washing cars. It’s about people and treating folks with respect and kindness”

First things first: yes, there actually was a big Dan. His name was Dan Shadday, father of the principal and CEO of Big Dan’s Car Wash, Jarrett Shadday. Dan’s grandson Jay is the current president of the Southwestern company. Big Dan passed away in the summer 2015.

In honour of his name, Big Dan’s Car Wash was launched less than two years ago and is now running three sites in Florida and four in nearby Georgia. Before the year is over, they hope to add four more car washes to their roster: one in Georgia (opening in November) and three more in Florida.

With a growth rate like that, you almost feel they are no newcomers in the car wash business. And you’re right. Previously, the Shadday family already operated 20 car washes and owned and operated over 65 convenience stores. Despite Covid, they launched their own brand in December 2020 while not holding back on ambitions.

“The new year is bringing further expansion across Georgia and Florida, as well as the expansion of our footprint into South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee”, says Anne Paige Wilson, who is the marketing manager at Big Dan’s Car Wash. Early next year they plan to open their first wash in South Carolina, she adds.

Big Dan’s Car Wash in Bradenton, Florida

What separates Big Dan Car Wash from the competition?
“The express car wash industry is booming but not all washes are equal. We invest heavily in state-of-the art equipment and high-quality chemicals, but one of the biggest differences between us and other operators is the time and resources we invest in training and developing our employees. You will often hear our corporate team say that we want to be the Chick-fil-A of car washes.
We aren’t trying to copy one of our peers in the industry, we are trying to emulate one of the top fast-food chains whose name is synonymous with top-notch customers. For us, it goes back to one of the principles we are founded on…car washing isn’t just about washing cars -it’s about people and treating folks with respect and kindness. That ideal starts with the family atmosphere we have internally and trickles down to how we make every one of our customers feel.”

Can you tell us a bit more about the technical side of your washes? What equipment do you use and how do you go about your water recycling?
“Big Dan’s uses a hydraulic driven conveyor system, and we partner with Sonny’s CarWash equipment. With our Velocity water works reclaim system, we can reduce sewer and water costs by 60% and we recycle up to 90% of the water used to wash a car.
Those of us who grew up washing cars in our driveways never thought about how much water we were using or where the water and chemicals ended up. We care about the environment and that’s why we focus on water efficiency and conservation. Washing your car at home uses over 10 times more water than we use.”

Big Dan’s water recycling plan

Big Dan also offers fleet plans. How important is this for your business model?
“As a new brand, our initial focus was growing our family plan program, but to answer the needs of our business clients, we quickly found the need to turn our attention to our fleet plan program as well.
We have recently added a corporate position to our Florida team whose primary focus is the growth of our fleet plan program. Keeping corporate vehicles clean isn’t just about appearance, it’s about protecting the investment companies make in their company vehicles. Giving employees an easy way to maintain their vehicle is also value added to their benefits package.”

For us, it’s not enough to provide a service, we want to make a difference in the communities that we are part of and that means giving back.”

Fundraising

Giving Back is written with capital letters on Big Dan’s website. The company wants to give something back to the communities they serve, they state.
Why is it, many car washes are involved in fundraising and philanthropy? And how important is it for Big Dan?
“Fundraisers and Spirit Days are an easy way to give back and ultimately you hope they bring new customers to your site. On fundraising days, it’s a win-win for customers because they get a clean car, and they get to support a cause that is important to them at the same time. Essentially one investment with a double reward.
Being philanthropic is part of who we are as a company. We offer several different types of fundraising opportunities, and we sponsor fundraising events throughout the year as well. For us, it’s not enough to provide a service, we want to make a difference in the communities that we are part of and that means giving back.”

Finding good staff is a problem in big parts of Europe. How is this in the US and does it affect your business?
“Currently, we are fully staffed at most of our sites and as a rule we have more applications than positions available. With that said, what we and other companies continue to deal with is the residual effect of stimulus funds. We live in a world where people want a paycheck but don’t necessarily want a job. The service industry has increased starting pay at a rate that isn’t maintainable and employers across the board have to recognize and address generational values and how they impact and affect the workplace. Knowing what factors influence the loyalty of your employees and creating an environment where they feel valued and instrumental will be one of the keys to our success.”

Big Dan’s Car Wash in Lady Lake, Florida


What has been the biggest challenge up till now?

When we launched the Big Dan’s brand, we did so with a very aggressive growth plan. Supply chain and construction delays have been the biggest challenge in 2022.”

Where does Big Dan want to be in 5 years’ time?
“Within five years, our goal is to be a well known and recognized brand in the express car wash industry. We anticipate having at least 50 sites in 7 to 10 different states. Most importantly, we want to be seen as one of the top brands in the industry.”

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Author: Rene Passet

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