Subzero temps can’t keep Elgin Car Wash closed, or customers away
By Janelle Walker For Sun-Times Media January 28, 2014 7:12PM
Updated: March 3, 2014 2:03PM
ELGIN — Working at the car wash when outdoor temperatures aren’t reaching much above 0 sounds pretty miserable — which is why many area car wash facilities found themselves closed this week.
But as long as the car gets a good drying, said Sotero “Joe” Perez at the Elgin Car Wash, there is no reason not to have the work done, even in below-zero temperatures.
The car washing business at 313 Dundee Avenue was one of the few locations residents could find open to get salt off their paint and out of the carpeting.
Unlike most of the competition where cars are vacuumed and dried outside, the 52-year-old Elgin business has room inside and out of the cold, Perez said.
He even found himself picking up a few new customers when those people discovered their usual locations closed and their cars covered in white — not from snow, but from the salt used by municipalities to keep roads ice-free.
The car wash employees didn’t realize they were about the only game in town until customers began calling Sunday and Monday, said Judith Colletti.
Her dad and uncle built and opened the car wash in 1962, Colletti said. While she is out of the business now, her son, Alfonso Veneziano, 20, manages the business for Perez.
The L-shaped building has an advantage over many of its newer competitors, Veneziano said. They have room for customers to drive into a heated garage, and be washed, dried and vacuumed indoors.
But whether the car wash is busier because of the additional salt on area roadways, or slower because of the cold, is hard to determine, Perez said.
He took over the car wash in November 2012. Because January 2013— and much of last winter — was so mild, it is hard to compare the two winter seasons, he said.
But because people want to get the road salt off of their cars this year, he thinks that even though it might be a little colder, they may actually be busier.
They are taking a few precautions to ensure nothing freezes, Perez said. There are extra heaters in the rooms that house chemicals, and instead of drying cars outdoors in the sun, cars are dried indoors.
It’s the drying that makes all of the difference, Veneziano said.
“We are hand drying the door jams,” even after blowers get most of the water off the car, he said.
And, Veneziano added, he’d rather see a little water on a car than the salt that settles on vehicles.
Ryan Parks was one of the customers who had his car washed and dried on Tuesday, when the outdoor temperature was 4 degrees.
He brings his 2012 Chevy Malibu in twice a week, winter and summer, Parks said.
While the twice-a-week regiment might seem a bit extreme for some, Veneziano said, it is common among their customers.
It is a point of pride for many of them that their cars always look their best.
“There is a feeling you get when you have a nice, clean car,” he said.