Fast Eddy’s Raises the Bar Once Again with a New Twin Tunnel
AUTO LAUNDRY NEWS | By Christopher Crawford
For those living in the Boise Idaho area, Fast Eddy’s is a local icon with a long history of superior customer service in the gas/convenience store and car care industry. The company has consistently set the standard for quality and service by raising the bar higher and higher, acquiring along the way a large following of loyal and happy customers. After developing successful chain locations twice before, then selling them (but keeping the brand name), owner Steve Eddy decided to do it again and develop a massive new facility, this time taking it up to an even higher level of quality, service, and selection than ever before. His idea was to build the largest and most extravagant gas station/convenience store, oil change, and car wash facility ever constructed, and not just in the state of Idaho, but the entire US Pacific Northwest, as Steve explains:
When we first did a similar type of large multi-profit car care facility at the 4 acre East Overland Road site in 2011, most people thought we were crazy and it would never work… However the customers loved it and it proved to be very successful venture. At the same time, we also built several other large gas station/convenience stores in the surrounding area, each featuring roll-over car washes. After running them for a number of years, we decided to sell this second chain and take some time off as a family. Eventually we decided it was time to do it again… and time to take it up to the next level. After slowly assembling an even larger site, some 5.5 acres in size—a feat that took quite a few years to accomplish—we were ready to proceed. Located at a large retail center at a major road intersection in the region, it featured an even higher traffic count and better demographics than the last site, with all of the potential to be even more successful.
With years of experience running a major car wash facility, along with decades of experience operating gas station/convenience stores and oil changes, we made the decision to go all out and build the biggest and most elaborate facility of its type ever seen in the US Pacific Northwest area. After several years going over different design ideas with my architects and equipment suppliers, we finally settled on developing a double 160 foot long side-by-side car wash tunnel, a three bay express lube with 6-vehicle at a time oil change capacity, and a 12,000 sq. ft. gas station/convenience store with restaurant and featuring 24 gas pumps, as well as a 5,000 sq. ft. second floor with leasable office space. To handle the large capacity of the twin car wash tunnel (up to 18 vehicles at the same time), we included in the design a total of 40 free-vacuum spaces and 9 mat cleaners, a feature sure to please our customers.
My main concept this time around was to truly wow the customers with an over-the-top massive gas/convenience store and car care facility and back it all up with a Walt Disney-level customer service experience. Our company has long identified with Disney since in our previous Fast Eddy’s locations, we were often called the “Disney” of C-stores due to the size, quality and cleanliness of our facilities combined with outstanding highly motived employees who delivered the highest quality of customer service possible. And with this new facility, this comparison has never truer, especially with all the offerings we provide at a one-stop destination location for our customers. Our business has always been primarily 80% return customer, with word-of-mouth being the biggest draw for new customers to come by and experience the outstanding quality of the services that we offer and our very impressive facilities. Our business philology is to offer something truly different to the consumer on a level that they have never experienced before… where they feel really appreciated and comfortable, then tell their friends and associates. That’s been the key to our long-term success.
One of the keys to make this massive new facility successful is its great location. In a process that took many years to put together, Steve finally settled on an undeveloped site at a major shopping center along the eastern edge of the city of Meridian, a major suburb to the west of Boise. Located on the northwest side of the busy traffic intersection of East Eagle and East Ustick Roads, the retail center features a Kolh’s, Hobby Lobby, Dick’s Sporting Goods, DownEast Home & Clothing, Walgreens, a bank and a number of restaurants and small stores. Two other major retail centers are also located at this major road intersection, making this area the major commercial destination in the city. The entire surrounding area is also packed full of housing developments, with more new homes being added every day.
Starting out with an only 3.1 acre site at the extreme northeast corner of the shopping center along the major road, the initial design was very similar to Steve’s other large facility on East Overland Road, but without a convenience store and only a very small gas station. This was a major setback for the project’s true potential. Not only was the site insufficient in size to put a C-store on it, but there was also a legal restriction from the one of the tenants at the center allowing him to build one. It took years but Steve finally overcame this by acquiring another 2.4 acres adjacent to the shopping center’s northern boundary (but legally outside of it) and then joined the two properties together. Now with a total of 5.5 acres, the site was redesigned to allow a huge convenience store and gas fueling facility, something the shopping center truly needed. At this point a decision was made also to modify the car wash from a Flex model into an Express one.
As the architects of Steve’s previous large facility, our office at Car-Wash-Architect.com worked once again with local architect Roger Foster to come up with several variations of site and building layouts. As at the other wash location, the massive Paygates entry structure was placed as close to the road as possible to act as the major architectural design feature of the facility. At over 42 feet in height and some 56 feet in width, its appearance is unique and distinctive. Clearly visible for over 1/4 mile in all directions, it acts as a giant bill-board for potential customers. After Steve had sold his previous chain, the buildings’ façade appearance had to be modified (the Paygates entry structure most of all), but the original building colors of pumpkin orange and shades of light and dark brown, decorative stone lower walls, unique signage and famous Fast Eddy’s name all remained. The overall building layout and design of the car wash and oil change was retained (although each was enlarged), but the final accepted design had the gas/convenience store more than doubled in size from his previous facilities and features a Earl of Sandwich restaurant inside with a drive-thru, 5,000 sq. ft. second floor of rentable office space, and adjacent 24 gas pumps under a huge blue and white Chevron covered canopy. However the most unique design feature of this redesigned new layout was the twin car wash tunnel. Steve decided to go in this direction due to his years of experience managing his other large car wash facility. That wash featured a single 146 foot MacNeil tunnel, but since he believed in heavily prepping vehicles (lots of local bugs), he was able to process only around 800 vehicles per day. Wanting to wash a considerably larger number of cars daily and shorten stacking lines, but not lowering the high standards his customers had come to expect, the only solution was to build two tunnels.
After exploring several different ideas and arrangements, the final design featured two 160 foot long car wash conveyors installed side-by-side. Instead of having two tunnels separated by the equipment room in the middle—the typical layout for most twin tunnels—a decision was made to have them side-by-side and visibly open to each other, adding interest and excitement to the customer’s experience. The ceiling height is also very high, helping to eliminate the claustrophobic effect of most typical wash tunnels. Conveyor length, wash equipment layouts, and even the elaborate colorful custom-made signage were specified to be exactly identical in appearance. Operating together, the two wash tunnels can now process well over 1,600 vehicles per day. To accommodate the large number of customers expected at busy high-volume times, a total of 40 free-vacuum spaces and 9 mat cleaners were installed to ensure there would be no long waiting times even on the busiest of days. Wash equipment selected was by MacNeil Wash Systems with Installation by BUDDCO Distributors out of Salt Lake City, the same company that installed and maintained his other large wash tunnel. The numerous central vacuum units and attractive arches are from Vacutech (finished in pumpkin orange paint as well), and the 3 point-of-sale units installed at the huge Paygates entry structure are manufactured by DRB. The adjacent up-scale Express Lube features 3 over-sized Oil Change Bays that can work on 2 vehicles at a time each, with a full-size Basement below to allow easy quick access to all types of vehicles. The poured concrete deck over steel decking under the floor was increased to 50 ton capacity to handle the largest RV’s on the road (this is double the capacity required to handle normal sized vehicles). The 2 outer Bays had their entry and exit doors increased to 14 feet in height again to accommodate even the tallest RV’s on the road. A heavy-duty equipment elevator is built-in to one corner of the Bays to allow heavy equipment, supplies and new tires sales (another featured service) to be lifted from the Lube Basement below.
Once customers park their vehicles at one of the many free-vacuum spaces on site, or drop them off at the Express Lube, they can then utilize the large and very comfortable Customer Lobby. With an area of more than 1,000 sq. ft., the spacious over-sized Lobby features padded oversized comfortable chairs and tables, multiple large TV monitors, 2 restrooms, a refreshment center and free Wi-Fi. Huge windows face both the double Wash Tunnel and Oil Change Bays allowing unimpeded visual access across the entire length and breadth of the building interior, enhancing the spaciousness and interest for of the facility for customers. For kids, there are also 2 custom-made water-guns to spray down the cars as they pass by installed in the Tunnel windows.
The massive completed facility finally opened its doors earlier this year. Truly impressive to behold, it has proved immediately to be extremely appealing to customers new and old alike with substantial street presence, excellent traffic flow, great organization of spaces, and a unique very attractive and colorful façade that is truly eye-catching to behold. With the ability to wash up to 1,600 vehicles, perform 70-100 oil changes, and service some 4,000-6,000 customers at the gas/convenience store each day, this is certainly no small enterprise. It also is a great economic boon for the community, employing over 100 people full and part-time including Steve, his wife Tracie, son Zach, and daughter-in-law Melissa. This incredible new addition to Fast Eddy’s long history of outstanding facilities in the Boise area brings a new level of service and excellence to local residents that they have never experienced before. Steve Eddy has truly raised the bar once again.
Christopher Crawford is with Car-Wash-Architect.com. He has written a number of major articles for this magazine over the years concerning the design and construction of new car washes projects. You can visit his company’s website for more information about the services they offer, or call them at (561) 212-3364.