by Jim Boyle
Arguably the most memorable car wash in Elk River is back in business.
Chad and Chelsie Anderson opened Dolphin Car Wash and Detail Center on March 30, and the new owners are hosting a four-day grand opening celebration that runs through Sunday, Aug. 6, at the business located at 516 Freeport Ave. NW.
You may, however, remember the car wash for its landscaped water fountain with jumping dolphins or from getting your vehicle cleaned throughout the business’s history under a series of owners dating back to the late 1980s before it closed.
“We’ve been hearing nothing but positive things,” Chad said of the business’s first four months of operation.
Dolphin Car Wash and Detail Center, a full-service car wash, also services fleet vehicles for a number of businesses in the area.
Standard car washes range from $7 to $20, with monthly service plans from $20 to $40 a month.
They also offer a range of wash and detail packages from $28 to $190 as well as a variety of detail services (hand wash, seat shampoo and carpet shampoo). They even clean car seats and strollers.
There’s free vacuuming available to customers, and this weekend there will be deals on the unlimited monthly packages.
Dolphin Car Wash and Detail Center has a family-friendly waiting area complete with a coffee maker, a television with Netflix streaming on it, a video game console, comfy furniture to relax in and magazines to read.
The fountain is not yet back in working order, but its on the Andersons’ list of things to do. Since moving back home, Chad, who is an Elk River native, and Chelsie, who is from South Dakota, have been focused getting the business operational and improving upon the equipment.
“We’re focused on quality and customer service,” Chad said. “The (aesthetics) is not what is going to drive repeat customers.”
Chad has a vast background that includes sales of car wash chemicals, management, maintenance and service work at a variety of companies that distribute products like Rain-X and Armour-All and businesses that clean personal vehicles, commercial and rental vehicles and public transit buses.
He has been around car washes since he was 6 years old when his dad and uncle worked in the industry. Both his father and uncle got their start in the car wash business as teenagers, and so did Chad, who started by folding towels and eventually found his way to manage a car wash in St. Cloud.
Chad and Chelsie met in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and when she got a promotion in the company she worked for, he followed her to Nebraska — first to Grand Island, Nebraska, and then on to Omaha. Chelsie’s background is in accounting.
After 10 years in Nebraska and having a child together they decided to move back to the Elk River area and apply their skills together as business partners to restart the car wash business Chad remembered as a youngster.
Things moved quickly and once they got a loan, the family found a home in Monticello. They have an elementary-aged daughter who attends school in Elk River, and Chelsie has two adult children.
Getting the car wash up and running was no easy task. The water was left on by the last people that had the business, and a waterline burst.
Chad and Chelsie say they have Al Nadeau to thank for helping them and connecting them with the right people. The former Elk River businessman brought his plumbing skills and connectedness to the community to bear.
“We couldn’t have done it without him,” Chad said.
The Andersons have replaced much of the washing equipment and made important tweaks to improve its systems.
Among the new equipment is one that allows large pickup trucks with large side mirrors to come through the wash while leaving the mirrors out.
Another is the use of colored lights in the car wash, which add a bit of pizazz but also serve a purpose, Chad explained.
Some people get a claustrophobic feeling in a car wash. Certain lights give people something to focus on and it seems to keep them from experiencing the disorientation they might have in car washes.
The landscaped fountain is on the list, too, but the focus remains on the car wash and detail center customers first.
“With all my experience, I kind of know where the holes are with other (car washes), and now I’m here to provide something that fills all those holes,” Chad said.