The Richmond Carwash Boom Continues

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Tidal Wave’s first field location opened near Costco in Chesterfield. ,Mike Platania photos,

The car wash industry is booming in Richmond as two out-of-town chains share five new locations in the area.

Georgia-based Tidal Wave Auto Spa recently opened its first local car wash at 1401 Packer Crossing near downtown Chesterfield and has another planned at 2140 John Rolfe Parkway in the John Rolfe Commons Shopping Center in Henrico.

Sam’s Express, a Charlotte-based chain that gained a foothold in Richmond with a Midlothian location on Hull Street Road as of 2020, Hopper has three other locations: 8808 Staples Mill Road near Hermitage High School in Henrico; 5421 S. Laburnum Ave. Near Richmond International Airport; and 11301 Iron Bridge Road in Chester.

The companies’ expansion plans are the latest sign of Richmond’s booming car wash industry in recent years.

Local operators such as Hogwash Express Car Wash and Flagstop Car Wash have expanded their presence in the area, while national operators such as Tommy Express and Green Clean Auto Wash have established their presence in Richmond, often with multiple locations. There’s even a RV-specific car wash that opened in Hanover last year.

Similar to Green Clean, Tidal Wave’s growth is fueled by private equity investments. Josh Henderson, chief marketing officer at Tidal Wave, said the company currently has about 100 locations open and another 100 are on the way.

Henderson confirmed that Tidal Wave received an investment from California-based private equity firm Golden Gate Capital in late 2020, but declined to disclose the amount. PE Hub trade magazine reported at the time that the investment was approximately $950 million.

Work is underway at the Sam’s Express location on Laburnum Avenue.

“You get to a point where you have to give everything for growth. We believe there’s a lot of opportunity in places where we’re not,” Henderson said. “We think we can easily have 15 locations in the Richmond market in the next three to five years. We think in Virginia we have maybe 50 to 70.

The 23-year-old company has most of its Southeast locations near its home base in Thomston, Ga., but Henderson said Tidal Wave has expanded west into the Midwest in recent years.

Tidal Wave leases the lots it’s building in Richmond, but Henderson said they appear to be their own landlords when prices are right. Other operators have taken this approach, most notably Tommy Express, which has spent about $5 million on The Diamond and two locations in Midlothian.

The spokesman for Sam’s Express confirmed the company’s plans for expansion into Richmond. The 5421 S. Laburnum Avenue site is currently under construction while the 8808 Staples Mill Road and 11301 Iron Bridge Road sites are in the planning phase.

With new and used car prices rising 12 and 40 percent, respectively, over the past year, drivers can keep their vehicles longer and come to the car wash to take better care of their journey. . Henderson believes drivers are now considering washing their cars as part of their routine maintenance.

“Taking good care of your vehicle isn’t just about the engine and tires, but also keeping it looking good, especially in markets where you have pollen, road salt or sand in the southern environment,” they said. “I think customers see exterior and interior car care as part of good car care.”

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