Remembering Sonny Essenburg

Jun (Left) and Sonny (Right) Essenburg

In 1969 Julius “Sonny” and Jacob “Jun” Essenburg opened the very first Quality Car Wash location here in Holland, MI. It wasn’t much to look at, compared to where we are today. But the brothers committed to the opportunity, devoting time, energy, and creativity to the process of washing cars and making improvements as they went.

It was this commitment to quality that lead the car wash to flourish and develop into the successful family of companies growing in Michigan, around the nation, and across the world today.

It is with sadness that we report that Sonny departed to his Lord Saturday, June 1st, 2019, leaving behind a lasting professional legacy and a large, loving family to carry on his name.

For his brother Jun, Sonny’s instincts for business were what made working with him such a joy.

“We were able to often make something out of nothing. There were so many different ideas we had for what to do and where to go, and we would always run stuff by each other before we did anything. We had our disagreements, sure, but we never stopped being the best business partners.

He had an eye for a deal. Better than I did, and most people I knew. He was so good at sensing when someone was going to sell and ready to sell, or going to buy and ready to buy. It was like a God-given talent to read people so well.”

Mike Lemmen, today the Director of Franchise Operations and a long-time employee and partner with the Essenburg family, had this to share.

“The company arranged a fishing charter on Lake Michigan… Sonny showed up at the dock to see us off with a bag of the best ham sandwiches ever! It meant so much because Sonny always played the bad cop while Jun played the good cop, but Sonny taking the time to see us off at the dock, providing food for the team, showed a soft side and that he really cared about us.

[He used to say] If you have work for three people, put two on it. If you assign three, two will stand around and talk to each other and the third will get frustrated. Work won’t get done. Put two on it and they won’t have time to talk—they’ll be working hard to get it done.”

What advice would Sonny have for us today?

Tom Essenburg, “Work hard, save your money.”

Jun Essenburg, “Be frugal. Be Invested. Look for opportunities and never quit.”

Mike Lemmen, “Hard work and determination will help you achieve success, but once that success is achieved you need to work just as hard, never relax.”

Tommy Car Wash Systems

TCWS Client Thriving in Lithuania

Much like the car wash market in the United States, car washing technology and practice on the international stage is in flux, with a wide variety of systems and approaches competing. We asked the team at Švaros Broliai, the leading car wash provider in Lithuania, about their experiences with Tommy Car Wash Systems’ equipment and the difference it’s made for them.

This is what they had to say:

How long have you been in the car wash business?

Švaros Broliai has been in the car wash business for more than 21 years. We are the largest and most advanced operator of car washes in the Baltics (based in Lithuania) with 20 car washes in total: six tunnel car washes and six car detailing centers as well as eight self-service car washes.

How has car wash industry changed in Lithuania over the past 5-10 years?

The car wash industry in Lithuania was developing pretty slowly, mostly through openings of new self-service car washes, before Švaros Broliai changed the market completely in only a few years by opening our tunnel car washes. We opened our fist 5 tunnel car washes in only 12 months and took the market by storm. Last year Švaros Broliai washed more than 1.25 million cars and beat our closest competitor in Lithuania by at least a factor of three.

How has TCWS been able to help advance these changes?

All of our tunnel car washes are equipped with TCWS equipment. This clearly shows that cooperation with TCWS was instrumental to Švaros Broliai’s advancement to clear leadership in Lithuania’s car wash market.

Why should a potential customer choose TCWS products over any other brand?

TCWS are real professionals. The equipment is most likely the best in the market; we get all the support and help we need. We even get personal attention from the owners of the company! We really like that TCWS never stops innovating and looking for ways to improve the equipment and IT systems, as well as user experience. This in turn helps us to service our customers better.

How has the durability of the TCWS products held up over time?

The durability is as advertised. If you take good care of the equipment, it holds. That’s what we are focused on.

What are your customers’ favorite parts about TCWS product line?

First and foremost, our customers like that TCWS equipment does the job fast and with good quality. In the end this is what is most important. As we take good care of the equipment according to TCWS instructions. Our car washes run with almost no interruptions; that is also of high importance to our customers. Last but not least, TCWS equipment just looks much better than other comparable products.

What are the biggest benefits to your relationship with Tommy Car Wash Systems?

We really like it that we feel as partners and not only customers with TCWS. We get personal attention, everything goes according to agreements, schedules are kept, etc. TCWS are always looking for ways to do things better; this in turn helps us to service our customers better and make our business stronger.

Tommy Car Wash Systems

Fundamentals of Express Car Wash Success: The Powerful Advantage of Franchises

The following is joint presentation by Ryan Essenburg, President of Tommy Car Wash Systems & Tommy’s Express Car Wash, and Ed Rensi, former CEO of McDonalds, entitled “Fundamentals of Express Car Wash Success: The Powerful Advantage of Franchises.”

The presentation was recorded at The Car Wash Show, 2019, hosted by the International Car Wash Association. Enjoy!

Tommy Car Wash Systems

Tom Essenburg Inducted into Car Wash Hall of Fame

“In my 50 years, this is the most exciting time to be in this business.”

These were the words of our own Tom Essenburg as he was inducted into the car wash hall of fame at The Car Wash Show 2019 only days ago, in recognition of his long service and influential career in the car wash industry

Tom has been with our company from the very beginning, founding Tommy Car Wash Systems to pursue changes and improvements to car wash technology and laying the foundations that would become Tommy’s Express Car Wash, a family of high-performance designer car washes that produce a premium result faster and more consistently than any other system on the market.

Held in Nashville, TN this year’s convention featured car wash operators, manufacturers, and industry leaders from across the world—including a strong contingent of Tommy Car wash Systems and Tommy’s Express team members. A number of new developments were featured, including updates to the Totally Tommy design, equipment refinements, and all new products including a new performance vacuum design and the 24k Tommy RO System.

The event also included a joint presentation between Ryan Essenburg, President of Tommy Car Wash Systems, and Ed Rensi, former CEO of McDonalds, on the Fundamentals of Express Car Wash Success, franchising, and the emerging changes sweeping our industry.

Tommy Car Wash Systems

Tommy Car Wash Systems Expands Facilities

To accommodate dramatically increasing production—largely a result of the success and growth of the Tommy’s Express Car Wash Franchise—Tommy Car Wash Systems recently expanded their existing facilities to include a large warehousing facility a short distance away the company’s existing assembly and office spaces.

According to Ethan Lemmen, Director of Operations for Tommy Car Wash Systems, the new warehouse will serve as a fulfillment hub and will house a large stock of finished car wash product and equipment, ready for dispatch to new car wash development locations as needed.

The expansion is a core piece of the 2020 Model Year program, a company-wide project to standardize products and streamline the car wash production process from first quote to final fulfillment. This effort promises to yield a variety of internal and external benefits and help Tommy Car Wash Systems to continue to serve the car wash industry with excellence and consistency.

Tommy Car Wash Systems

What Makes an Ideal Express Car Wash Location?

The American car wash industry continues to grow, with ever-increasing customer demand and tremendous opportunity waiting to be claimed. Done right, an express car wash gives operators a steady income stream with no billing or collection problems, a relatively small staff to manage, and a reliable membership pool.

But car washes require a substantial upfront investment in brick, mortar, equipment, and electronics as well as the all-important issue of a suitable location. So, how should one evaluate the ideal car wash location and what factors should be considered?

Traffic Conditions

Peak traffic count should be between 15,000 and 25,000 vehicles with traffic speeds between 25 and 45 miles per hour. This will provide the necessary traffic density to support the business, while also allowing vehicles a good long look at the facility and the time to safely decelerate and turn-in.

Commercial Proximity

Consumers appreciate a good car wash—just not in their own backyard. Car wash sites should not border any residential property, as this can trigger intense resistance during the development process.

Instead, car washes should be developed in a large retail or commercial center complete with grocery or shopping centers, restaurants, and other major brick and mortar locations, OR on a major traffic corridor feeding in to such a center. This way your location will be conveniently at-hand for a much larger number of customers as they go about their daily business or run weekend errands.

A quick and tried-and-true way to evaluate the quality of such a location is to quickly look for the nearest major fast-food franchise store. If one is right around the corner, it’s probably a good location to consider.

Lot Orientation and Size

Rectangular lots, specifically rectangular lots in which the car wash conveyor can run parallel to the road, are generally ideal for express car wash construction. The rectangular footprint provides a simplified traffic flow and facility layout, while offering traffic the best possible view of the wash in action.

 Corner lots are particularly desirable, as they allow greater flexibility, visibility, an additional entrance/exit, and greater traffic exposure.

As a general rule of thumb full-size express car wash locations require .8 to 1 acre, flex sites require 1.2 to 1.5 acres, and mini conveyorized carwashes require around .5 acres. To dig deeper into the topic, consider this blog post.


Given the shortage of high-quality express carwashes in America there is no sense planting your flag in another facility’s back yard. Instead of battling it out against an established brand and splitting a customer base, the ideal car wash location will have no express car washes in the local area, giving you a complete, un-tapped, and underserved population to colonize.

You can learn more on the subject here. Note that for our purposes, competitive car washes do not include self-serve or inbay washes.


Demographics provides an analytical breakdown of the population living or working in proximity your site location, the population from which the vast majority of your customers will be drawn. This breakdown can help identify areas that are or are not particularly suited to car wash success based on a number of factors.

Desirable factors may include:

  • Above Average Household Income – Areas with higher disposable income will better sustain car wash membership participation, and up-menu service options.
  • Dense Housing – Apartments and condos are generally preferable to single family housing, as they suggest a denser population without access to convenient vehicle washing space.
  • Population Growth – A growing population with a wide range of ages represented indicates a healthy economy and attractive area able to sustain your business for years to come.

You can learn more about the subject here.

About Tommy Car Wash Systems

Leaders in car wash innovation and development, Tommy Car Wash Systems produces high quality round stainless steel arches, equipment, control systems, and detergents along with proprietary building designs. Parties interested in high capacity, performance-driven car washing are invited to explore the Tommy’s Express Car Wash franchise, a fast-growing international express car wash venture coming soon to a city near you!

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Your customers aren’t a captive audience, they have plenty of options. Driveway washing, inbay washes, tunnels, or just putting it off. So, if you want people to choose your wash and to keep choosing it over and over again for years or decades to come, you have to understand what exactly they are really looking for, and you need to make sure you’re in the best position to give it to them.

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3 Principles for Successful Car Wash Logo Design

You’re opening a car wash and you need a logo! Now is not the time to give your nephew, your secretary, or that nice aspiring designer next door their big chance. Your logo is far more than just a cool representation of your business name. Done properly, it is an effective standard-bearer for your entire investment. Done poorly, it will be an embarrassing liability that you will pay for dearly in the long run. Let’s look at some of the important responsibilities of your logo and what you can do to help your design contribute to your success.

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