Crew Carwash delivers dynamic customer service, one wash at a time
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
In 1948, brothers Joe and Ed Dahm started Mike’s Minit Man, Indiana’s first automated carwash and one of only 18 in operation in the U.S. Located in Ft. Wayne, it was initially a full-service carwash, which included both interior and exterior care.
“Back then they would attach a chain to the vehicle and pull it through the wash on a conveyor, then hand-scrub it,” says Sally Dahm Grant, Joe’s granddaughter and current Executive Vice President of the company.
Through the years, technology has changed significantly and now includes computer-controlled equipment and touchless hot air dryers. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the company motto on which the founders built their business.
“My grandfather and his brother believed strongly in treating people the way you want to be treated,” says Grant, whose father, Bill, is the CEO. “That goes for both our customers and our employees.”
The family later dropped the words “Minut Man” so it read Mike’s Carwash.
In 1978, the company switched to an exterior-only concept, so they could deliver a fast and quick experience for the customer. Then in 1985, they opened their first location in Indianapolis on Allisonville Road. Through the years, they’ve added multiple locations and currently have 23 in the Indy area.
“We were blessed to be here in the mid-80s when the city was vibrant and experiencing explosive growth,” Grant says.
Three years ago, Bill Dahm and his brother, Mike, went through a friendly reorganizing of the business in which they divided the locations between them. Mike took 19, many of them in Ohio. Bill kept 26, most of them in the Indianapolis area, and changed the name to Crew Carwash.
“Other than the name, nothing has changed,” Grant says. “We’re still family-owned. We’re still committed to delivering dynamite customer service. We’re still surrounded by positive, high-energy people.”
Grant, a graduate of Indiana University, worked in Chicago and Cincinnati before returning to her roots 14 years ago to join the team in a marketing capacity.
“My grandfather always said, ‘We’re really in the people business. We just happen to wash cars,’” Grant says.
“Joe said that nobody cares about what you did last week or last year, they only remember their last visit,” adds Tom Wiederin, recruiting director for Crew for the past 17 years. “That’s why it’s vital to never become complacent so that we consistently deliver the ‘wow experience’ to customers.”
It seems to be working as Grant says when customers speak about the Crew Carwash experience, the first thing they mention isn’t how sparkling clean their car is but rather how dazzled they are by the team who washed it. That team is assembled by careful design. Many are high school and college students with stellar attitudes and winning smiles. The company also hires talented individuals into its fast-track management program, which starts at a competitive annual salary.
In addition, the company offers up to $2,500 of tuition assistance to college students, which they can use on rent, books or other expenses. Employees appreciate the perks and pay but mostly they like the respect they receive.
“When we survey our employees, the number one thing they like about working here isn’t the comp time or the scheduling or even the paycheck,” Grant says. “It’s their colleagues. That’s why we have good retention.”
“We can teach skills, but we can’t teach a great work ethic,” he says. “We make a point to hire people with happy demeanors and good attitudes.”
That happiness, in turn, extends to even the smallest, most discerning customer. Years ago, Joe (the founder) noticed that children were scared to go through the automatic carwash. To help ease their anxiety, Joe purchased several stuffed puppets and set them out throughout the carwash, making sure to have one in the blower room so that the experience would be fondly anticipated rather than dreaded.
“That tradition started decades ago, and it’s one we’ve carried on at all our locations,” says Grant, noting that they switch out the toys every few weeks and spend thousands of dollars monthly on the fuzzy friends. “Not many businesses have a line item budget for stuffed animals.”
Joe is now 90 and a grandfather and great-grandfather. He lives in Ft. Wayne except for the months he spends wintering in Florida.
“His attention to detail and sincere customer focus is unparalleled,” says Grant, proud to carry on the family legacy. “We strive to continue on what he started.”
Sign up now for the Unlimited Wash Pass for $29/month. For locations and more information, visit crewcarwash.com.