Best Car Wash | Best of Panhandle
Bill Martin and I connected over the phone, chatting for a while about his lifelong love affair with car washes. As the founder and owner of Metro Express car washes, Bill is proud to share with me insights into the family business. Each of Bill’s grown kids runs a Metro Express car wash, located in Missoula and Boise, but the company footprint stretches from Missoula to Coeur D’Alene and Spokane.
Bill has been in the car wash business since his days in Kansas City, MO, when he first began working at a car wash in 1969. It wasn’t till 1974 that he opened his own car wash. But Bill wasn’t fated to live forever in Kansas City, and he sold that business and moved to Boise in 1981.
Once Bill landed in Boise he opened Nu-Look car wash. The name was very fitting for the time period, with that German krautrock flare. It remained Nu-Look until he launched the Metro Brand in 2004.
Family Values and Customer-Focused
Metro Express Car Wash is the dream of what an express car wash can be—their website is sleek and user-friendly. They make it easy to manage your subscription if you opt for that. Their family story is right there on the page, and like so many of the best businesses around, Metro Express puts the customer first.
In our conversation, Bill’s values — which have established Metro Express as one of the best car washes around — are unmistakable. He and his family value grit and service, and they are very customer-centric.
There’s something about the car wash industry. I noticed in talking to Bill that it’s all about sharing knowledge and mentorship.
Any car wash I mentioned up and down the cities along the Rocky Mountains, Bill knew. He knew the owners, he knew their stories, and usually he knew about their successes or if they’d gone out of business.
He talked of his mentors, but he also talked of people he’d mentored—not only his kids, but others to whom he owed nothing. When he spoke of other car wash owners in the industry, he did it with grace and class that I found very refreshing.
Environmentally Aware — Even Friendly — Car Washes
But what about washing a car during a drought? This is a hard question, but we can’t avoid it considering where we live.
Metro Express recycles 80 percent of the water used. This means their facilities are built from the bottom up with water filtration systems in mind, and it also means that there has always been conscientious thought about the environmental impact driving their design from the beginning.
Today, car washes are many times more efficient than they were twenty years ago. Bill explains that a car wash used to need a lot of help to make sure it could get a car clean, often using manual labor. But with applied chemistry and better equipment and facilities, car washes today require less to do more.
What about do-it-yourself? Or in your driveway with a garden hose?
“All the runoff water with the dirt and stuff that comes from your car in our carwashes?” Bill answered. “That gets treated in the city sewer before it goes back into the aquifers. But water washed away in your driveway goes straight into the river without treatment.”
It’s clear from our conversation that there’s still room for growth. Right now Metro Express is building a new facility that will be outfitted with solar panels. The up-front cost is massive, but Metro Express hopes to be a leader in applying forward-thinking tech to the industry.
“They’re very expensive, but we just think it’s the future. If it’s beneficial, it’ll be something we always do for our car washes,” Bill said.
Metro Express currently has 11 locations. By the end of 2022, they’ll have 15. With values like theirs, I don’t see why they shouldn’t have at least 20more car washes.