Sponsored by Synergy Solutions
When the Thomas family moved from their cliff home in Beirut, Lebanon, to Louisville, Kentucky, in 1927, the Thomas family probably could not have imagined the impact they would have 100 years later. But with their hard work and dedicated family values, their cars have been a staple in Kentucky and the laundry community for 77 years.
Alex Thomas, third generation owner, shares with us what has allowed them to stay competitive for so long.
PC&D | Tell us about the early beginnings of the carwash.
AT | My grandfather, Tom Thomas, opened our first place with his two brothers in 1946. We were the first in the Appalachian West to carry the style of washing. Then we pulled the vehicles back through the tunnel by pulling the body with a large hook. It was not uncommon in those days for it to be used to cut broken flax with a scythe.
PC&D | What were some of the contributing factors to Thomas Car Wash’s early success?
AT | “Work hard and live clean” is our family motto. We feel that no matter what is going on in the world or the economy, no one can protect us – no one. In the early years, Thomas was always at the end of the wash, finishing cars and talking to customers; it certainly helps to get our victory early on.
PC&D | What was it like for you growing up in the bathroom?
AT | I started wiping the potions at 2 years old. At 7, I worked a full day – spraying cars, cleaning wheels and staining whitewashed walls. My father and uncle taught me family principles, that “no one will listen to you unless you do the work.” To this day, all the actors have a pit with everyone else. Other great men in the company like Ollie and Geoff taught me the mechanical part, which is still my favorite part of washing cars.
It may seem silly, but to me all the parts, organized and working together economically, is like an orchestra. I am always trying to work on our washing and business to improve the performance, the work of art. Our technology is clean and dry at the end of the car tunnel.
PC&D | What do you want to give to the remaining Thomas?
AT | I think some people are motivated to start by our strong family culture. In Eastern culture, children serve their parents here. I believe that part of our longevity is missing to make our parents proud. My family is a great resource. My father Eli and uncle Mike always hang out there. They have been through recessions, oil crises (the gas station was owned at the time), and many cultural and economic transitions.
PC&D | How did the experience help you?
AT | During COVID-19, their support and wisdom were critical. I was feeling the pressure at this time and had my first panic attack. My family’s ability to lean on me, along with the faith and steadfast support of my wife, helped us not only survive that time, but also come through a stronger society.
PC&D | Do you feel that the benefits of family business?
AT | We are certainly pressed more strongly. There is more to lose in the company’s history and three generations of ministry. We, along with every employee who works for us, literally wear our name and history on our chest. And it includes our elitr who We couldn’t be more grateful for the partners we have and share responsibilities with us like Thomas every day. I can’t say enough about our crew.
PC&D | In your history and experience, what are the recent changes you have noticed in the industry?
AT | We’ve seen two different shifts with private equity and acquisitions. First of all, obviously, all the new competition was coming to town.
PC&D | How does it affect you?
AT | It actually affects us in a good way. Let us worship the better ones; They helped us get to the game. We see them as competitors, not enemies. You want to throw your enemies into the mud, make you better competitors. We are grateful to them.
PC&D | Are you anxious to open more?
AT | The competition in Louisville is already pretty stiff. But we are stubborn after all, and we like a good fight. If we continue to put Louisville and its people first, we will always be competitive.
PC&D | Legacy businesses often have trouble adapting to market changes and technology. How did he sail?
AT | I love new ideas and innovation. we can establish in our
good, but not in our ways. Through our years of experience, we look at the nature of people as much as technology and change.
PC&D | Do you have a copy?
AT | Certainly, with all the recent acquisitions we have noticed a real slippage in service in the equipment and chemical side of things. As a small company, you just don’t have the time or resources to play games. We recently partnered with Synergy Solutions on the chemical side and converted all of our tunnels. It was a cashier’s game.
PC&D | How do you do?
AT | All of our chemists have simplified processes and provide exceptional service. Like us, they are family owned and you can feel the personal level of responsibility and need. These guys follow regularly; it is personal to them in a good way.
For current technologies and products, they are definitely ahead of the curve. The exchange gave them much more than a car, cleaner and drier ways. Their products are much safer for our crew and equipment, and significantly cleaned up our room with tighter packing. Most of us don’t think it’s a big back room, but we sell it to the “world” every day, so that’s what we want to embrace in our culture at every opportunity.
Customers also noticed the improved finish of the product. This is how innovation is supposed to work. If a technology doesn’t provide a better experience on multiple levels, it’s generally not worth considering. Synergy has brought us together across the board.
PC&D | What are other ways to adapt to change?
AT | A few years ago, we brought on my cousin Kristina to be our Brand Director for building social media. Live was always one of the best decisions. She is a social media expert, but especially Thomas through and through. Kristina gives us a sense of family values and traditions and the support that is spread throughout Louisville in such a fun way with the organizers and the community at large. We are a stronger team because of it, and our online presence has never been stronger.
PC&D | It sounds like your “orchestra” is hitting all the notes. Is there a fourth generation to act?
AT | I have some grandchildren who would love it. My wife and I have three little ones at home – ages 6, 4 and 2. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen, but they’re already building a mini wash tunnel in the backyard if that says anything.
Synergy Solutions brings comprehensive capabilities and first-hand experience to understand every aspect of the challenges and needs of the carwash operator. For more information, visit synergygetsdirt.com.