February 2009

Island Car Wash: Incredibly Clean Cars Consistently

Author: Craig Hysell

That’s not my truck. It can’t be. It looks too… what’s the word I’m looking for? “Awesome?” Yet, upon closer inspection, when you remove the tree sap, pollen, brake dust, two months worth of daily use and water spots, that is, indeed, my truck. The only way I can properly tell is by squinting through the sunshine gleaming off my hood and spotting my gym bag in the back. My truck simply looks like new. Fresh off the lot new. Not bad for a five-year-old rig.

I open the door to get in and the interior looks better than the exterior, which should have been impossible, much less able to have been accomplished in the 15 minutes it took for the Island Car Wash to take my ride from crappy to incredible. The car mats even look new. “We had to clean them twice, but it was no big deal,” says my twenty-something-year-old detail guy in the red sweatshirt. “I used a wax cleaner on your dashboard and console to bring out the shine, too.” I didn’t know my dashboard had another color other than “dusty,” but “shiny” definitely works for me.

“What’s that fresh smell?” I ask.

“We used a lemon scented sanitizer to get rid of that other smell.” Ah, yes, that other smell. I spilled Lowcountry boil in my truck five months ago and, depending on the temperature outside, my vehicle has oscillated between an old shoe smell and an old diaper smell ever since. Now it reminds me of fresh lemon cake. I almost cry with joy. I can get in my truck without wanting to hurl. What a great day.

Brian Troch and his family (you can thank his mother for the inviting décor of the place) have turned the Island Car Wash into “a destination place of sorts.” There are two big-screen plasma televisions in the lobby along with free wi-fi, comfortable seating, racks of car care products, donuts, pastries and some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted—Brian orders it from Asheville, North Carolina, and it’s the same coffee they use at the Biltmore Estate. I feel like I’m in the lobby of a nice hotel rather than waiting for my car to be cleaned. But it wasn’t always like this.

Forty-four year-old Brian graduated from a military academy in his youth and went on to explore the rock and roll lifestyle for the next twenty years. Literally. He even had a video on MTV’s ??Headbanger’s Ball??—back in the day when MTV still showed music videos. During that time, Brian’s family bought the Island Car Wash and have owned it for about the same time Brian was rocking the free world. Brian worked as a detail guy at the car wash between gigs or when money got tight. Eventually he left the stage for good and settled into owning an antique shop in Asheville, North Carolina. In 2006, however, the family business came calling again, and Brian couldn’t say no.

Two years ago, the Island Car Wash had to change. “We either had to replace all the equipment in The Tunnel and revamp the place, or just knock it down and start from scratch,” said Brian. They decided to tear it down and start over. “Obviously, this was a better decision,” he said. And you’d be hard pressed to find fault with that opinion.

The Island Car Wash is more of a facility than a car wash now—more of an immaculate, modernistic operation than a run-of-the-mill business. As I take a tour of the nerve center of The Tunnel—where cars and trucks run along an automated track through a seventy yard “tunnel” and get a bath of spa-like proportions—I realize this is a long way from a bucket, some soap and water, and a sponge. The technology fascinates me. I get that same feeling I get when I walk into a museum or a jewelry shop. I try not to touch anything.

Brian talks to me in soaps, shampoos, waxes, applications, techniques and technologies. I nod, deeply fascinated, trying to keep up with this guru’s lingo, knowing that whatever it is and however it’s used works, because my truck looks absolutely incredible when I leave. And it’s not just on the island that the Island Car Wash makes cars shine and people happy. “We have a location out in Bluffton as well,” said Brian, which also has a full-service Quik Lube facility.

Brian suggests I get the Gold Wash (every Wednesday the Gold Wash is $6 off) and I wasn’t about to argue with him. I had been watching his business turn out some amazing looking cars for the last 30 minutes. “I’m working toward consistency. I want people to be able to get the same experience at each location. It’s going to happen. Soon,” said Brian. I don’t doubt it. Brian’s the kind of guy who gets things done.
My car sparkles. One row away sits a convertible Rolls-Royce getting detailed. I drive off in a clean, lemon-fresh truck with a huge grin. If it’s good enough for a Rolls, it’s good enough for me.

For a list of services, wash packages, directions and specials, visit islandcarwash.com.

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