Washing cars is Bob Rust’s passion.
The owner of White Horse Auto Wash is bringing his passion to Culpeper at a new location at 460 James Madison Highway.
Rust, who started White Horse in Warrenton in 2010, said that the Culpeper location will be the fourth for the business. They also have locations in Woodbridge and Charlottesville.
“We always had a decent customer base in Culpeper,” Rust said. “Customers have always told us we needed one in Culpeper.”
When they opened the Charlottesville location, Rust said it only made sense to venture into Culpeper and that he has been scouting the area for several years. He originally was looking at the parcel where Panera Bread is currently located, but was unable to make that work.
“Culpeper has always been a hole in the market,” Rust said. “We really like the market, it’s our kind of people. I think it needs us. We’re equally excited about getting there.”
He purchased the land at 460 James Madison Highway on Nov. 28, 2017 from Douty Enterprises, LLC., according to county real estate transfers, for $1 million.
The .92 acre location is going to be state-of-the-art, Rust said, with a “cool setup” planned incorporating different lighting than is normally used at a car wash. White Horse is working with a contractor who has a background in lighting for concerts who came up with a proposal to light the facility differently.
“We’re trying to avoid making it a nightclub,” Rust said. “We want to use lights in the right way and I think that will be fun to do.”
The White Horse experience will include an equipment package that Rust says includes the “latest and greatest.” The car wash will offer full-service car washes and customer service.
“What’s great about it is that in Culpeper, there’s nothing like this,” Rust said. “There’s no tunnel, it’s just a different car wash. Nobody does any service associated with it. We really pride ourselves on that, that’s what sets us apart and makes it a little more personalized service.”
Every customer who uses the full service option receives a quality card and follow up on their visit.
“We take all that advice they give us seriously,” Rust said.
The Rust family started the project in Warrenton in 2008 and finally opened in 2010.
“It’s just been fun for us, we just like washing cars, it’s our passion,” Rust said.
Rust said the group has been preparing for the opening – planned in the third quarter in possibly August or September – by hiring more managers to be available to help facilitate customer service.
“We’ve hired on a couple more people in Warrenton and Charlottesville to get ready for the jump,” Rust said. “If you go to a Chick-Fil-A when they open, they have a couple higher level managers who help open the store. We’re following a similar pattern. We really try to push the best training right out of the gate, we learned a couple of lessons after opening the last ones.”
White Horse plans to employ between 15 and 25 people in Culpeper, with 10 to 15 full time employees.
They also want to help prepare their younger employees for careers after, so they provide plenty of training.
“We kind of end up being a conduit for the younger community,” Rust said. “So we try to get them some lessons beyond the car wash. We do a lot of management meetings off site, we just had one on ethical decision making. We know people will come in and move on, but we want them to have a positive experience while they are here.”
The location at 460 James Madison was one that Rust strategically targeted, as it’s close to many of Culpeper’s shopping centers.
“We wanted to be really close to the main drag,” Rust said. “We’re like the second or third thing on someone’s shopping list, so we want to be near other daily uses.”
He recalled coming across a to-do list in a car that read “groceries, haircut, candles and car wash.”
“We couldn’t even make it above candles,” Rust said with a laugh. “We like to be easy in and out and somewhere people can see us.”
One of the services they offer, which he says has been a real big hit, is an unlimited full service car wash plan for $39.99 a month. Usually, a full service wash is $35 one time. The monthly plan saw one man come through the car wash 316 times in one year.
Rust said that unlike many other service businesses, car washes are still evolving. It’s still a relatively new technology as cars have only been built to handle professional car washes since around the 1970s.
“There’s a lot of stuff that you can just bring up to the 20th century, much less the 21st century,” Rust said. “We kind of saw an industrial business model and we thought ‘this is a retail business,’ so there’s a lot of stuff that we thought was low hanging fruit and just made a lot of sense.”
The project, which will cost between $4.5 to $5 million, recycles as much water as it can, as Rust believes it’s actually better for the environment than home washing.
“It’s capital intensive, it’s labor intensive, because it’s labor intensive it’s management intensive. And you’ve got to deal with the weather. It’s pretty easy other than that,” Rust said with a laugh.
White Horse features an equestrian theme that is meant to complement the rich history and culture of Virginia. The name “White Horse” comes from a fishing rock on the east side of the Shenandoah River, that earned its name because when the water level rises the water rushing over the rock looks like white horses in full stride.
To learn more, visit www.whitehorseautowash.com.