A Soapy Success

Hi-tech car wash combinesCaribbean feel with quality service

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Cabana Car Wash, 4993 W. Bellfort St., Houston, TX 77035;713-729-0400
When Effie Booker wanted to have her car washed, she had to travel outside her neighborhood. So in 1994, after doing extensive research, meeting with the Small Business Administration and securing multiple loans, Booker and long-time friend, Dr. Jean Morency, opened Cabana Car Wash in Houston. “If I needed that service and couldn’t get it in my community, I figured others needed it also,” says Booker, a 38-year-old senior vice president at Wells Fargo Bank in Houston.

Cabana Car Wash, which has 35 employees and grossed $875,000 in sales last year, provides a full-service car wash experience with a Caribbean flare. On the outside, there are palm trees, and inside, you’ll find floral patio seating beneath a huge umbrella, frozen yogurt served by attendants dressed in tropical uniforms and Caribbean music. Cabana also offers a detailing center and lube facility.
Starting the company was no easy task, says Booker. In 1992, she began negotiations to purchase land for $275,000 and started researching the business. “I actually went out and interviewed car wash owners. It took some persistence but they sat down with me and told me about the ups and downs of the business.”

Booker spent the next year developing her business plan and searching for capital. With little funds to handle the venture alone, Booker formed a 50-50 partnership with Morency, a Houston dentist. Together they secured a total of $873,000 from area banks, the SBA and the Houston Small Business Development Corp. Each also contributed $50,000 in personal savings. Construction, which began in 1993, took a year to complete and cost $558,000.

Unlike most car washes, Cabana uses an all-cloth wash system rather than brushes. Prices range from $7.99-$24.99, with customized services running as much as $200.

Projected revenues for 1997 are over $1 million. “We are now looking at other high-traffic areas in minority neighborhoods and seriously considering duplicating Cabana Car Wash in other parts of the city.”