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Acquisition of car wash brings female entrepreneur her third downtown biz

The new owners of Ellie's Car Wash Richard and Joni Hackwell (ends) with wash employees Gary and Shane Rea (center).

By C.J. McMANUS
Sun Advocate associate editor

With the acquisition of Ellie's Car Wash on Main Street in Price, Joni Hackwell has become one of the busiest executives in Carbon County, working to keep three downtown retail shops efficient in our area's ever changing market.

"A friend of mine had passed away and his widow wanted to sell the car wash because it was her husbands deal," said Joni's business partner and husband Richard Hackwell. "She asked if I knew someone who would be interested, and when me and Joni looked at the numbers, we decided it was right for us. I have always been interested in diversifying, so we went for it."

According to Joni, who also owns the Cold Stone Creamery and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, the secret to operating multiple businesses at once is having a quality staff.

"I have great managers," she said. "And I couldn't do it without them."

Looking at a car wash, all one sees is the money being constantly fed into one slot or another. What is missed, according to Richard, are the maintenance costs that skyrocket as winter sets in.

"Electronics and freezing water don't mix, so as soon as winter hits this business becomes cost and labor intensive and I can't afford to have this automatic wash down at all," he said, pointing to a line of four waiting cars at the Highway 55 location. "We are constantly overnighting parts from across the country and working overtime to get them installed."

The business employees three part-timers, Shane and Gary Rea, both local men, who have been with the operation since it was a Super Wash in the 1980s, and Erick Ericson, who covers weekend shifts.

The wash is staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, ensuring that someone is there to assist customers when the robots fail.

As car washes have become more and more automated, they also have become more plastic friendly, moving forward with a society that uses less and less cash.

"I use my debit card for most things these days," said Joni. "So I was happy to see that this location takes cards at both the automatic wash and in the bays. It also has several vacuum stations that accept cards including American Express."

Because Ellie's required a large investment directly after purchase it will be awhile before the washes turn into profit for the Hackwells, an issue that doesn't seem to both either Joni or Richard.

"We see this carwash as an investment in the community and Carbon County has always been a safe investment for us," said Joni.




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