Photo by Chris Hovinga

As with all retail establishments, location is one of, if not the single most critical factors to consider from the earliest stages of a car washes planning and development. And when deciding on a car wash location, a thorough demographics study is just one of the tools available to help operators make the best possible decision.

To learn more, we spoke with Chris Hovinga, a Project Manager and long-time member of the Tommy Car Wash Systems Buildings team, about what demographic factors and criteria are looked for when identifying good potential car wash sites.

Q: Good morning Chris! How is the Tommy Car Wash Systems building team these days?

CH. We are doing great! Ramping up for Tommy’s Express franchise projects is a tall order, and we are always adding to the team to meet the challenge. It’s a lot of work, but the rewards are wonderful.

Q: What are a few of the key demographic criteria that signal a good local area for a high performing express car wash system, such as a Totally Tommy model car wash?

CH. Little competition or low preforming competition would be fantastic, but that’s not always the case so we need to really examine not only the site, but the attitude and makeup of the community. We are looking for a high visibility corner, with easy access in the main retail district of an area with a growing population.

It’s a lot to ask for and can drive the land cost up, but the other option is to get into an area that you know is going to develop into one of those parts of the city where everyone wants to go.

You’re also looking for a city with a modern attitude towards design, and sometimes that can take a bit of work. But, if you can find a cooperative council and a good location in a healthy area, the end results will be worth it.

Also, don’t be afraid to look past “blank” lots. Brick and mortar stores are going away and moving online and you never know what’s for sale.

Q: What resources would you recommend to help collect this information?

CH. There are a ton of great resources out there! has wonderful tools for seeing what’s in an area.

The local DOT website for your state can show you traffic and car counts. It’s free, but the data is not updated all the time so you really have to examine the report.

The local chamber of commerce can typically supply a lot of info, usually for free.

And don’t forget your local commercial real estate agents. They know what’s happening and can greatly assist by providing the current info and perspective you to make a smart decision.

Q: Any other helpful hints or advice you have for prospective car wash owners or operators?

CH. Google Earth is a great resource but having an experienced team on the ground that can really get the feel of the site along with local talent that can discuss to area from experience really is invaluable..

Tommy Car Wash Systems.