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April 15, 2013

Workin' at a car wash on wheels

When Wayne Dunn of Cullman was in college he made extra money by washing cars. “I worked my way through two years of college at Athens State doing that,” said Dunn. “That was in the late 1980s.”

In late 2008, he found himself without a job due to a shrinking economy and layoffs. Although he looked, he just couldn’t find another job that interested him. “So I took my Ford Expedition, bought a bucket and a water hose, and started washing cars,” he said pragmatically. His car wash was a smashing success. Mainly through word of mouth, “Wives would tell their friends about the guy who would come to them and wash their car."

You can go to work or a hair appointment and leave your car in the parking lot. When you come back later you discover that the car washing fairies have visited.

Pat Hanes of Tobacco For Less loves the service. "I don't like the idea of people driving my car somewhere else," she said. "Wayne and Brad have been doing my car for several years and they do a fantastic job. I have an SUV, so it takes about an hour and a half, and my car is here the whole time."

“People like the fact that they can call me, give me directions, and I go to them. No one has to drive their car anywhere,” said Dunn. “We have customers that we have never even met. They just call from their workplace and we have it ready for them when they get off.”

In October 2011, Dunn suffered a stroke and was unable to work. However, his son, Brad, who was an 18-year-old senior at Fairview High School, stepped up to the plate and took over. “He has done really well,” beamed his dad.

Brad drives a van that is literally a full-service car wash on four wheels. Equipped with everything from electricity, carpet cleaners and brushes, to 200 gallons of water, he can do several cars in one day.

The average job uses about 12-14 gallons of water per car. A general clean-up includes vacuuming and dressing the tires, even checking the tire pressure. A special scent is also used to make each vehicle smell brand new. Brad even hand dries the surface to prevent spots.

They call their enterprise, VIP Mobile Auto Spa, and it has caught on with a customer base from one end of Cullman County to the other. “We cover the entire county, but most of our business is within a five radius of downtown Cullman,” Dunn explained.

“We have both personal and commercial customers and we have contracts with clients who have fleet cars,” he explained. “Often people who work in plants will call and tell us where their car is parked and we will have it done for them when they get off. No one ever has to take their car and drop it off, and it never gets driven by anyone. It’s a real convenience for most people.”

Last week’s snow was a boon to V.I.P. “When we have a snow like that everyone needs a car wash,” Dunn pointed out. “The same thing happens when it rains.”

Dunn says that business is more lucrative in the winter than you’d think. “Lots of people like to wash their own cars in the spring and summer, but not so much in 30-degree weather,” he smiled.

There were days when he and Brad did as many as nine cars. Now, while he is still recuperating from his ordeal, Brad is keeping the van rolling and following full time in his footsteps. Brad loves this kind of physical, outdoor work, too. "I like being out and meeting people all over Cullman County. I'd much rather do this than being sitting in an air conditioned office somewhere, it's better than any job I can think of."

"Dealing with the elements, both hot and cold, is just one of those things we've learned to deal with," says Brad.

"We wear coveralls when it gets really bad, but this year it hasn't been that bad. I've been out in 44 degrees with the wind blowing, and the water on top of the car will freeze, but it's all part of the job."

"We sometimes even work in the rain when we can work with customers who have carports or garages. Other rainy days I just take a day off," he laughed.

Brad schedules by appointment. He works six days a week. For more information about V.I.P., visit their Facebook page or their website, VIP Mobile Auto Spa or call Brad directly at 256-595-2408.

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