The pollen season helps SC County’s car wash industry thrive


Welcome to the pollen season.

It means index fingers are writing “wash me” on dirty hoods and back windows all over the backcountry.

To avoid embarrassment, a quick car wash can keep your vehicle clean during the spring pollen season.

Early spring is the busiest time of year and drives much of the boom in sales and volume, said Ashton Hines, a 10-year business owner and operator of Papa Bear Car Washes, which is located across the state.

“We’re seeing a significant increase in volume and ticket average due to pollen,” Hines said.

Customers who typically spend $10 to $15 on a wash are increasing their ticket purchases to $20 to $25 on washes during the pollen season, she said.

“The word soap is an insult,” Hines said.

The chemical mixtures – not simple soapy water – make all the difference when it comes to protecting the car’s paintwork from pollen, dirt and grime.

Tire shine, honey glaze, and pina colada blast are some of the combinations that keep ambrosia off cars and trucks.


Have you noticed an overwhelming number of new car washes in the Upstate area?

One expert attributes each oversaturation of more washing sites to development and population growth within a specific region or area.

“The car wash industry used to be a well-kept secret in the business world,” said Christopher McKenna, a private consultant and operations manager for several Los Angeles car wash companies.

“Secrets out now.”

McKenna estimates that from the 1970s through the mid-1990s, people didn’t know what kind of profit a car wash could make, which ranged from 20% to 50% annually.

He said it’s been watered down a bit over the past 15 years.

But he warned that many people have been shut out of the industry because it costs so much.

McKenna estimates that starting a car wash business with no land already acquired would cost nearly $3 million.

There are four types of car washes in the industry:

— Express: washing through a tunnel, can self-suction after washing

— Flex: customer can wash and vacuum, a dedicated area for indoor services

— Full service: the customer can drive through the car clean inside and out

— Self-service: gas station, roadside, park vehicle and spray

An express car wash is the most popular type of industrial model on the market, McKenna said.

For the growing car wash businesses in Upstate, McKenna has seen similar market tensions as in Phoenix, Arizona, where nearby car washes fought price wars, dropping from $5 to $4 to stay competitive.

“People who build on top of each other will end up making the hustle thin,” McKenna said. “No one is going to make the money they could have.”


A simple, affordable, and convenient car wash is the best option for getting rid of pavement, bugs, and pollen, said Jacob Repokis, owner of six Tiger Wash car washes in Upstate.

Tiger Wash in Pendleton offers self-service, $1.50 per wash.

It also doubles as a laundromat, but the car wash portion peaks during this time

The high pollution starts in mid-March and lasts about a month or two, or at least until the end of May.

The geography and location of the hinterland makes it a uniquely bad spot for allergies and pollen, said Dr. Emmanuel Sarmiento in a 2019 Greenville News story.

Repokis said his car wash business is not a multi-million dollar business.

“The only time we produce enough volume to sustain is during the pollen season,” Repokis said. “If we didn’t have a pollen season, we wouldn’t have enough to feed us.”


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