George Kopetsky came from tough times. When he was just 15 years old, his father was struck by a car and killed. At that point he worked to support his mother and brother, and throughout his high school career he sometimes struggled to make it to class. One day the principal warned him that if he missed another day of school, he was going to turn him over to the draft board.
He followed through with his promise, and six weeks later, at age 18, George was drafted into World War II.
When he returned home from the Battle of the Bulge, he became a jack of all trades, hauling materials with his pickup truck, taking excavation jobs digging basements, streets and sewers, as well as driving a school bus to earn extra cash. In 1953 George married his wife Patricia, and the couple went on to have six children, David, George, Steve, Kathy, Laura and Linda. In August of 1968, the couple decided to take on a new endeavor and started a car washing business on County Line Road.
“We had a big discussion as to whether we should open a self-serve car wash with just a bay, or do one of those nice drive-throughs,” Patricia says. “I said, ‘I don’t think self-serve will support us,’ so we went for the big one.”
The tunnel car wash was high-tech for the time and required more employees, so their children helped run the business. Their twin daughters were 9 years old when they first learned to operate the cash register.
“Everybody in the family had to work – it was just a necessity,” says Patricia, who recalls running to the bank to make deposits at 11 p.m. in her pajamas.
In the early 1970s, George changed careers again and began working in the sand and gravel business. At that time, he passed the baton to his wife and son David, who went on to purchase additional car wash locations in 1987, 1988 and 1990. They later sold three of the four car washes. When the fourth went up for sale in 2017, Patricia’s daughter Linda and grandson Austin Gore felt a pull to keep the car washing business in the family, so they bought it.
After running that location for a year, they decided to build another car wash and partnered with some lifelong family friends. It was a match made in heaven, as their partners had the know-how on marketing car washes, while the Kopetskys had experience operating facilities.
“It’s been the perfect partnership since day one,” Austin says. “We believe in the concept of staying on top of leading-edge technology.”
From the get-go, the families were invested in giving back to their community. Not only do they regularly sponsor Center Grove sports and the arts, including baseball, basketball, football, soccer, show choir and band, but each month they also donate a portion of their sales to a person, club or organization that could use a little extra love, through their Klean to Contribute program. In March of this year they raised $2,000 for Jason Mueller, a beloved teacher and coach with the Center Grove school system who has been sick with ulcerative colitis and pancreatitis. Mueller, the voice of the Trojans for all Center Grove varsity athletics, has suffered several health setbacks in recent times, and this fundraiser was appreciated.
Kopetsky is the longest-lasting tunnel car wash operator that started in central Indiana. Through the years, the car wash industry has evolved substantially in style, equipment and technology. For instance, the only option to bring a car through a facility used to be by chain and roller. There were two steel grooves the driver had to line up on and if they lined up incorrectly, wheels could get scratched. Now a belted system enables companies to wash lowered cars and trucks, because it only requires 2” of ground clearance. This also equates to no damaged wheels, since there are no grooves.
Their most popular package is the Full Buff ‘N Shine, which takes traditional hand wax to the next level through automation. This method is 100% unique to the business.
Today, camera systems installed throughout the entire facility link up with an artificial intelligence program, which scans every vehicle that loads onto the belt and measures space between vehicles. Typically, car washes have a green light at the end of the wash tunnel. The problem is that sometimes the driver doesn’t immediately move, which can cause a collision with the car behind them. The camera technology, however, automatically detects whether the gap between vehicles is reduced and shuts down the entire facility if so.
The Kopetsky Auto Wash car wash environment itself has also changed from decades ago. New architecture has brought in more natural light, which helps to eliminate claustrophobia in customers.
“Parents tell us all the time that their kids are only OK going to a car wash if it’s here, because they don’t feel they’re trapped in a dark room with loud machines,” Austin says.
Kopetsky Auto Wash is located at 5865 North State Road 135 in Greenwood. For more information, call 844-927-4386 or visit kwash.com.