In a market where industry insiders are getting used to seeing small operations being gobbled up by large, male-dominated, capital-backed mega-chains, this offers a new perspective to see the opening of a small (but powerful) car wash owned and operated by women.
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That’s exactly what happened in 2016, when veteran real estate developer Emilie Baratta saw an opportunity to bring change to her community. The community in question, a northwest neighborhood of Denver, Colorado, lacked a sophisticated car wash operation, and Baratta rushed to provide that service, while helping the greater good through inclusiveness and caring for the planet. So begins the story of Gleam Car Wash.
‘Green car wash’
Gleam Car Wash is a flexible operation that offers exterior and interior car wash as well as a suite of retail offerings. While the services available on the Colorado-based wash website are extensive, the aspect of the business that stands out the most on GleamCarWash.com is the brand’s commitment to sustainability. In fact, after typing “Gleam Car Wash” into the Google search bar, the first link that appears is “Gleam Car Wash: Denver Full Service Green Car Wash”. And the Gleam team isn’t just using green as a marketing strategy – they’ve truly revolutionized what an eco-friendly car wash can accomplish.
According to Barata,[Our] the engines have [variable frequency drives] VFDs, LED lighting dominate and waste streams are seriously monitored – the car wash recycles and composts.
Notably, Gleam also houses 41 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof of the car wash tunnel. A quick calculation shows that Gleam’s solar power will produce 160 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day, assuming an average of four hours of sunlight per day.1For context, according to How Stuff Works, a central air conditioning (A/C) system in an average American home uses 10 to 30 kWh per day, which means Gleam’s solar power could provide air conditioning for about five homes. each day.2 Obviously, a car wash uses more energy than an average residential property, but the numbers are still hard to ignore.
Gleam is also home to an electric vehicle (EV) charging station, a trend more often seen at modern car wash locations. In the spirit of this company’s mission to help the greater good, Gleam offers its Level 2 EV charger at no additional cost to customers.
In addition to the energy efforts made by Gleam Car Wash, the team also strives to save as much water as possible. Baratta reports that the car wash captures up to 90% of the water used in the tunnel washer. She also states that each wash uses approximately 10 gallons of potable (potable) water and that the additional gallons used come from non-potable or reclaimed water that is collected and treated on-site.
Diversity and Inclusion
Early in the creation of Gleam Car Wash, the leadership team knew they wanted to implement unique and inclusive hiring practices. “Gleam believes in doing the right thing,” Baratta shares. “Not only does the company take environmental stewardship very seriously, but 20% of Gleam’s workforce is made up of people with intellectual and/or [developmental] disability (IDD)”.
She also adds that this unique aspect of the business was not driven by any government regulations or subsidized grants – it was just a cause that the management team felt was important to support. Baratta now believes this has helped create great employee morale and even improved company results.
The team also shared the feat of providing financial support for people with autism and other developmental disabilities. Gleam raised $15,000 in the summer of 2021 for Project Search, a school-to-work transition program run by Children’s Hospital Colorado, which helps “high school students with significant disabilities…build workplace skills. work and exit the job-ready program.3
Gleam matched all Project Research donations from customers in July 2021. After the 2021 Project Research program ended, five graduates were actually hired at Gleam, and three remain employed in the wash a year later.
Gleam also offers a fundraising program, similar to events seen at larger chains, such as Chipotle, where nonprofits partner with the car wash for a day. When supporters have their vehicles washed at Gleam on fundraiser day, 10% of the proceeds from each wash go to the nonprofit.
Through this fundraising program, Gleam has helped raise $75,000 for various local organizations, such as schools, youth centers, and other charities.
Over the six years of Gleam Car Wash, the company has achieved impressive community support, environmental feats and charitable efforts, as noted, but that in no way diminishes the accomplishments found within the workings of the business, so to speak.
According to Baratta, “Gleam is constantly adapting.” When it comes to technology specifically, Gleam is quick to update and expand customer equipment and processes. Recently, the brand has moved from manually scanning member stickers to installing an RFID recognition system.
The management team, which includes entrepreneur Elijah Williams and seasoned retailer Matthew Weston, has had great success at car wash shows, which always spark ideas for innovative updates to their business. At the most recent The Car Wash Show™, Gleam developed a relationship that led to the installation of all new brushes. The team also uses a comprehensive tracking program that allows them to analyze the performance of all the profit centers of the brand.
Gleam also has quite a few profit centers. The retail business alone is “robust”, according to Baratta, but the facility also includes a store that sells local produce, pre-packaged drinks and snacks, and hundreds of greeting cards for customers waiting for their car is washed or the details are finished. . The Gleam Shop features over 30 vendor products, from candles to coffee, with the majority of products sourced from local manufacturers.
In the theme of “constant adaptation”, Gleam Car Wash recently announced the grand opening of “Gleam II”, an express site that will also feature a retail center that mirrors the operation of the flagship location. The biggest difference between the Northwest Denver Gleam and the Gleam II in Aurora, Colorado is that the latter will not offer interior cleaning services. Instead, Gleam II will have 20 self-service vacuum stations. As noted on Carwash.com, “Both locations will offer various monthly outdoor-only car wash subscriptions, and members will be able to wash their car at either location.”
There is no doubt that Baratta and his team have created a brilliant business and the Professional Carwashing & Detailing team are delighted to report on the future developments of the growing brand.
As Baratta concludes, “Gleam opened in the fall of 2016 and has created 40 jobs, cleaned hundreds of thousands of vehicles, and is striving to produce the highest quality car, with the greenest infrastructure. possible and the most inclusive hiring practices possible, throughout Colorado and beyond.” Good luck moving forward with Gleam Car Wash.
Camille Renner is Associate Editor of Professional Carwashing & Detailing.
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