Dan Spencer Sr. knows that if it weren’t for the pandemic, he would have made it to five million cars. The 83-year-old owner of the Pearl Brookpark Car Wash, Spencer made the tough decision to shut his doors in March after a breezy 57 years, selling the business to Rainforest, a Northeast Ohio chain. He was just 66,000 washes shy of the milestone.
I want my car as clean as it can be, and that’s what we always strove to do. I’m a car nut: I had a ’61 Corvette and a ’64 GTO, robin’s egg blue. So, I’m particular — I want the cars to be washed the way I’d want mine to be.
Nobody had money when we started. I told my wife back in ’61 when we got married, I told her, ‘Guess what? All the money we saved up for a house is going in the car wash!’
In 1966, we did 148,000 cars. During COVID, we washed 63,000 (with just two washes in April 2020.) Let’s just say we got beat up pretty good.
One of my problems was people would come into the car wash and steal my help. They’d say, ‘Hey, Dan. You know, how’s that boy out there?’ Two, three weeks later, the kid’s gone. Back then, everybody wanted to work. Today? I don’t know what happened.
We still have customers who bring us free pizza or boxes of donuts for the whole crew.
Today, all these are outside-only car washes. You pull in, you stay in your car, you go out — see ya! Nobody wipes them off, nobody vacuums them. You want to vacuum? ‘There’s some vacuums out there, go use them!’
I sound like I talk a lot, but normally don’t. I could never get up and give a speech. I’d just hate it. Being in this business, the way I could talk to customers — I’d be out wiping down a car and see a racket or a golf bag. ‘Hey, how’s your golf game going?’ And boy, they’d just go on and on about their golf game.
I still get here every morning at 8:30. Why? I don’t know. Because I get up; I got to do it. I can’t stay home. I’m actually trying to talk Rainforest into maybe letting me keep the detail shop out back. Maybe just fiddling around with cars, wax one here or there, you know?