Green Clean Auto Spa

Jacksonville, NC  |  John Hunter  |

I didn’t want to hear it when my counselor said I needed to find an existing site, but it was smart. If I had been stubborn and built something new, I wouldn’t be here

WHAT THEY DO  More than a car wash, this eco-friendly auto spa uses biodegradable chemicals, recycles their water, and maintains a focus on being good stewards of their environment and community. The tunnel is 80-feet long and packs a punch using a custom, efficient design with top-of-the-line equipment and chemicals.

UNDER THE CAPE  John Hunter has been a Marine for more than twenty years, but now he also proudly claims ownership of the Green Clean Auto Spa. While studying construction at Auburn, he drove through a car wash and was suddenly struck by the technology and robotics, and how few employees were necessary. He was hooked and set out to learn everything he could. He traveled to Las Vegas for the car wash show and attended a car wash management course. Finally, in 2013 he called the SBTDC and made plans to make the dream a reality. John Hunter is a self-proclaimed doer. “You can’t just wish and hope things happen, you have to position yourself to make it happen.” And he has certainly made things happen.

SECOND IS THE BEST  No one in the Jacksonville area had a car wash like this, and John was determined to be the first. Before leaving for Afghanistan for a deployment, he started talking to a car wash services vendor out of Georgia about his plans and brought him to North Carolina to survey the area, but at some point during his tour, John lost touch with him. When he returned home from deployment, he found a sign reading “Car Wash Coming Soon” on the very piece of land he was working on with the vendor. He had been cut out by the vendor who brought in another investor. He was backstabbed and crushed, and came close to giving up. Instead, he rose to the challenge and purchased a run down car wash just down the street from his now competitors. He operated that car wash while working with the SBTDC to come up with the funding for the renovation. Applying for a bank loan took over a year and his first attempt was denied. The bank was not very familiar with the process and when they learned about the other car wash opening, they turned him down. His persistence continued and he started over with a new lender—a preferred lender of the SBA. “With the first bank it felt like they just wanted to watch me jump through hoops, but with the new bank it was smooth sailing.”

JUST LIKE LEGOS  John sat down with his SBTDC counselor to crunch some numbers. He was ready to build a brand new facility, but his counselor pushed instead for a retrofit. John eventually purchased a building from the city of Jacksonville and describes putting it together like blocks of Legos. He expanded the existing building from 53 feet to 81 feet, saving tens of thousands of dollars.  “I didn’t want to hear it when Robin said I needed to find an existing site, but it was smart. If I had been stubborn and built something new, I wouldn’t be here.

Within a few months, they opened for business and John admits to being nervous those first few days. He remembers thinking it would be one of those “if you build it, they will come” situations, but it was not. When they first opened up, they would only get a few cars and a full staff on payroll. But, within several months they were in the black. Now, a year later, they are number one on Yelp, Facebook and Google. He plans to open more in the future. His plans are aggressive and the competition is fierce, but that is what he loves about it – not having a huge budget but still being able to out think the competition. As a full-time Marine, John necessarily spends much of his time away from his budding business, but he is confident in his employees. “If you give people the tools for success, then they’ll make it happen. You just have to educate them and empower them.”

HOW THEY’RE HEROES  John is an avid believer in community involvement and believes whole-heartedly that the community is the reason for his success. The Auto Spa runs a fundraising promotion for non-profits, as well as organizations like school sports teams. During the promotion, non-profits receive 50% of the profits of each wash and other organizations earn 25%. So far, they have helped Active Hero, an organization helping veterans with PTSD, Ainsleys Angels, Carobell Inc. and many others.

This story was originally published in the SBTDC 2018 Success Stories.  View the entire publication here.

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