At East Ridge Car Wash, we are a veteran owned local business that has many years of combined experience washing cars. Operated since 1989 by Larry Edwards, a Vietnam veteran, we are the longest running tunnel car wash St Joseph MO has. The Edwards family was born and raised in St. Joseph, and now has the second generation involved, with the third often running around the back room. Some mottos Larry has taught our staff is:
“Give them more than they expect”
“Wash each car as though it was your grandmother’s car.”
Larry got his start in a window washing and janitorial business in the 1970’s. This was a springboard to launch a sign company with a few partners that is still successful today. After many years in the sign business, Larry launched off on his own to buy the original East Ridge Car Wash, which was the only tunnel car wash St Joseph MO had at the time.
Under Larry’s leadership, East Ridge Car Wash St Joseph MO opened for business in 1989. The original location was on Village Drive, a bustling area at the time. With only 4 hours of experience with tunnel car washing, Larry had to learn on the fly quickly. To learn how to operate a car wash he reached out to the “big boys” in Kansas City who had experience. They graciously showed Larry some of the complexities of cleaning cars.
One of the most complex parts to learn about car washing was the chemistry. One question that arose is as follows; Is a presoak needed? After learning how it works, that question was quickly answered. The presoaks are one of the most important aspects to cleaning a car. With a drive to understand the necessity of each chemical and process, the cars produced at the original wash began to come out with a great shine. We still believe that shines makes us the best car wash St Joseph MO has to offer.
The original East Ridge Car Wash location on Village Drive was a rudimentary system that still produced great cars. The conveyer was 65 ft long with a log chain. This log chain ran above ground and was not able to handle too many vehicles at a time. A single vacuum serviced customers. To most effectively wash cars quickly, the tunnel was used for the equipment which left the hand prep station outside in the elements. This made for a tough job when the sun bore hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Furthermore, no bug removing chemicals were used. Without the bug juice, it took quite a while to remove the bug guts. The prep guns were taken down each night and moved in. 18,000 cars were washed in the first full year. Within 4 years, business had tripled and the facility reached capacity at 56,000 cars.
Thus, in 1995, a new tunnel was completed. This facility was built on the same property, and the original tunnel car wash St Joseph MO had was converted to storage. At 120 ft, the new Car Wash was able to process more vehicles. The new conveyor setup was able to hold more vehicles at a time, and implemented a new roller on demand design. This allowed for the rollers to run beneath the top track until a vehicle was ready to go through the car wash. Then, the roller “popped” up on demand and pushed the cars through the wash. This significantly reduced the time to get a car through the wash. Before the roller on demand, the car had to be brought into the tunnel at just the right time between the rollers. Fixing this hassle helped to increase the max car volume. For the first 9 years, attendants serving our customers before washing took cash with belt bags. This worked ok at the time, but left the attendants exposed to the elements. Then, in 1998, a sales booth was added and new fangled credit cards were included in the sales department.
After another 10 years, business was again outgrowing our setup. On January 1st, 2008 the current location, East Ridge Car Wash II, was opened on the North Belt Highway. Opening on the belt was strategic with the way that St Joe was growing. Village Dr was just several years away from losing a lot of the traffic flow, so it was prudent planning to move with city growth. East Ridge I stayed in operation until April 2022.
Our current wash is 165 ft long, the longest car wash St Joseph MO has. It was built to handle a large volume of cars. Free vacuums were installed for customers’ use. A large backroom to handle equipment and chemicals was added. The construction design factored in the previous 19 years of car wash experience and with longevity in mind. The design of the new facility accounted for expediting the removal of mud. We are in the “mud business” via car washing by removing mud from vehicles and then disposing of it in a safe manner. The “pit” is where the mud and other contaminants from vehicles remain. It is a very labor intensive and dirty process to shovel out the mud. To improve this process, the pit was designed with a 4 inch pvc pipe that was ripped in half and embedded into a concrete v channel that allowed the pit to be flushed out quickly. Then a system of pumps and tanks feed mud into an aboveground rolling dumpster. The dumpster can be hauled out for efficient and safe disposal. With more equipment and track space, we are able to clean cars more efficiently than before.
In 2017, an opportunity arose that allowed East Ridge car wash to expand to 2 new wash sites in Montana. Known as Splash Car Wash, these are located in beautiful Hamilton and Missoula and operate as touchless car washes. They presented a new challenge of learning how to perfect the cleaning process with only water pressure and chemicals. If the Presoak chemical strength is even slightly off, the quality of the shine diminishes. With this challenge, we developed better combinations of chemicals and improved our ability to consistently clean to our standards. We have been able to implement these and other lessons learned from the touchless washing to improve our cleaning process at our St. Joseph car wash.